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By Ayaz Gul
29 November 2008
Pakistan has urged India to lower bilateral tensions that are running high over Indian allegations that the terrorists behind Mumbai's deadly assaults have links with Pakistani extremist groups. The Pakistani foreign minister has reiterated his country stands ready to help New Delhi investigate the violence and will move against any local group in Pakistan if India produced solid evidence. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
Indian leaders have blamed Pakistan-based Islamic groups for planning this week's coordinated attacks in the country's commercial capital of Mumbai. Pakistan has condemned the assault as a "barbaric act" and has denied the Indian allegations.
Speaking after an emergency Cabinet meeting in Islamabad on Saturday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi urged India to establish evidence before pointing fingers at Pakistan. But he acknowledged the Mumbai violence has raised bilateral tensions.
|Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaks during a press conference in Islamabad, 29 Nov 2008|
"Let us not fool ourselves," said Qureshi. "It is a serious situation when the people in India feel this is 9/11 for India. It is, I think, in Pakistan's interest and in India's interest to defuse the situation. Lowering of tension is essential."
Elements within Pakistan's top spy agency, the Inter-Services-Intelligence or ISI, are accused of having links to extremist groups suspected in the Mumbai attacks.
Pakistani leaders have vowed to cooperate with India in fighting terrorism and finding those behind the attacks on the Indian commercial capital. But on Saturday Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani withdrew a pledge to send the ISI chief to India to share information with Indian investigators.
Foreign Minister Qureshi dismissed suggestions his country has gone back on its commitment and said Pakistan will move against any individual or group if India offered evidence linking them to the Mumbai carnage.
"If they have information if they have evidence they should share it with us," he said. "As far as the government of Pakistan is concerned, terrorism is terrorism. And we do not qualify it nor do we differentiate between organizations. Any entity or group involved in this ghastly act, the government of Pakistan will proceed against it."
Mr. Qureshi reiterated that terrorism is a common enemy and India should not jump to conclusions. He said that Pakistan is a vital partner in the global war against terrorism and the policy has provoked extremists to kill Pakistani security forces and civilians by carrying out suicide bombings and other attacks across the country.