ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI, (Reuters) – The top U.S. military officer has sought to defuse tension between Pakistan and India while New Delhi asked Islamabad on Tuesday to avoid “war hysteria” and act to dismantle terrorist infrastructure.
India and the United States have blamed Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for last month’s attacks in Mumbai that killed 179 people and which have triggered a sharp rise in tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Pakistan on Monday on his second visit since the attacks and met army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and the head of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, the U.S. embassy said.
“Mullen encouraged the Pakistani leaders to use this tragic event as an opportunity to forge more productive ties with India and to seek ways in which both nations can combat the common threat of extremism together,” the U.S. embassy said in a statement on Tuesday.
Pakistan denies any links to the assault, blaming “non-state actors”, and has promised to cooperate in investigations into the assault. At the same time, it has warned that its desire for peaceful coexistence should not be taken as weakness.
The two countries have fought three wars since 1947 and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Monday the armed forces could defend the nation in the event of another.
India urged Pakistan to avoid “war hysteria” and focus on dismantling terrorist infrastructure. “The issue is not war, the issue is terror and territory in Pakistan being used to promote, aid and abet this terror,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in New Delhi. “Nobody wants war.”
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Pakistan should not create “war hysteria” or raise an accusing finger at others. “(The) question is there has been a sinister, heinous terrorist attack on Mumbai from the elements in Pakistan. India has requested Pakistan to take action against the perpetrators,” he told reporters.
India has put on hold a five-year old peace process that had brought better ties.
While promising to help investigate the attacks, Pakistan has complained that India has yet to share any evidence and the details it has got have come through the media. Indian officials have said they have passed on information.
The head of Interpol said India had yet to give it any information about the attacks, adding facts passed to the media by investigators should be shared if accurate.
“What is not acceptable internationally is for information to be put in the media and that information, if it’s accurate, not to be placed in police databases,” Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble told a news conference in Islamabad.
Until Indian authorities shared information, police around the world would be unable to make any determination about the identity of the attackers, he said.
Pakistan has detained scores of militants, including several top leaders, and shut offices and frozen the assets of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) group, which the United Nations says is a front for the LeT.
The LeT was set up to fight Indian rule in Kashmir and has been linked by U.S. officials and analysts to Pakistan’s ISI who they say use it as a tool to destabilise India.
Mullen thanked the Pakistani officials for efforts to arrest members of LeT and other groups involved in the attacks, the U.S. embassy said.
The Indian foreign ministry on Monday handed a letter it said was written by the lone surviving gunman from the Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Amir Kasab, to Pakistan’s mission in New Delhi.
Kasab said he and the nine gunmen killed in the siege were from Pakistan, the ministry said. Pakistan confirmed its mission had received a letter and that it was being examined.