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India Presses Pakistan On Deadly Mumbai Attacks


We're getting more details on the attacks in India that killed more than 170 people in Mumbai in November. India now says it has transcripts of telephone conversations between the attackers and their controllers. And India says those controllers were from Pakistan, and their instructions in the transcripts include, "Inflict the maximum damage. Keep fighting. Don't be taken alive." Now India wants Pakistan to act against the people India believes were behind the killings. NPR's Philip Reeves reports on the rising tensions between the two rivals.

PHILIP REEVES: Six weeks after the attacks on Mumbai, India's anger is unabated. Indian officials said from early on that the Mumbai attackers were from the Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, but they refrained at first from accusing Pakistan's spy agency or its powerful army of playing a part. That's changed as India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, made clear this week.

Prime Minister MANMOHAN SINGH (India): There is enough evidence to show that given the sophistication and military precision of the attack, it must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan.

REEVES: Singh's words went down very badly in Pakistan.

Senator ENVER BAIG (Pakistan's Peoples Party): That's absolutely absurd - absurd and baseless.

REEVES: That's Enver Baig, a senator and leading figure in the ruling Pakistan People's Party.

Senator BAIG: The state of Pakistan is not at all involved in anything like the Indian prime minister put it, that it's government-sponsored state terrorism. When they make such wild allegations, the cooperation which then is expected would not come.

REEVES: India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the end of British rule in 1947. Both have nuclear arsenals. In the last few years, they've slowly been forging peace. Now the relationship's on the rocks again. Analysts in both countries say peacemaking has been dealt a long-term setback by the Mumbai attacks. Beparapuram Parthasarathi(ph) used to be India's envoy to Pakistan.

Mr. BEPARAPURAM PARTHASARATHI (Former Indian Envoy to Pakistan): Yes, this terrorist attack has done lasting damage. It'll take quite some time to - for us to get over the anger which India feels. And I think the Pakistanis are in a mood of denial.

REEVES: A few days ago, India presented Pakistan with a dossier of evidence about the Mumbai attacks. It says this includes the confession of the sole surviving gunman plus transcripts of telephone conversations between the gunmen and the masterminds of the assault.

India wants the Pakistani authorities to arrest and hand over those masterminds. But Pakistan's not willing to send any of its nationals to be tried in India, with whom it has no extradition treaty. Trying suspects in Pakistan could cause further friction. India may decide to question the credibility of the court. Parthasarathi has a solution based on the fact that the Mumbai victims include six Americans.

Mr. PARTHASARATHI: It serves our interests far better to provide the evidence to the United States. And I would personally hope that ultimately these guys who were involved in killing American nationals are taken and tried in America.

REEVES: Frustration's building on both sides. The Indians feel the Pakistanis aren't seriously investigating. They point to Pakistan's past record of sponsoring militant groups as proxies to pursue their territorial aims. The Pakistanis say they're ready to cooperate. They also say Islamist militants are as much their enemy as India's. After all, militants have killed many hundreds of their soldiers and citizens in the last several years, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Again Senator Baig.

Senator BAIG: I think the international community and India should understand that we are victims ourselves. Pakistan is ready to cooperate on every level because we face these issues on daily basis.

REEVES: Jingoism's taking hold in both countries. Pakistani commentator Ayesha Siddiqa believes this is strengthening Pakistan's military and enabling the government to avoid confronting the real threat of Islamic extremism.

DR. AYESHA SIDDIQA (Pakistani Independent Security Analyst and Strategic Affairs Columnist): They almost will have the media building a consensus which refuses to look at the larger issue of militancy and terrorism in Pakistan. It has completely got buried under the other issue of the India-Pakistan tension.

REEVES: Analysts expect that tension to continue for a long time, though they say neither India nor Pakistan wants military conflict. The Indian government's under some internal pressure. Elections are looming. Some wanted to respond to the Mumbai attacks with at least a symbolic missile strike against suspected militant bases in Pakistan. Pakistan says if it's attacked, it'll fight back. So far that situation hasn't arisen. This might change if there is another militant attack in India linked to Pakistan. Former Indian envoy Parthasarathi believes India's response would be, in his words, "extremely robust." He says that's a scenario the whole world should worry about.

Mr. PARTHASARATHI: It would be too horrible to contemplate. In that case, all bets are off.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.