M A I N   N E W S

LeT as dangerous as Qaida: US
Napolitano assures more access to Headley; says strategic partnership to be intensified
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 27
Within a month of the killing of Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan, India and the United States today launched a Homeland Security Dialogue with Washington committing itself to giving New Delhi more access to David Coleman Headley, who has admitted his role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and turned a witness against Pakistan-born co-accused Tahawwur Hussain Rana.

New Delhi conveyed to Washington its disappointment over the fact that Pakistan continued to pursue terrorism as an instrument of state policy as Home Minister P Chidambaram and US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano initiated the first-of-its-kind dialogue aimed at combating terrorism and other challenges, such as cyber security, counterfeit currency, illicit financing and transnational crimes.

“India lives in perhaps the most difficult neighbhourhood in the world. The global epicentre of terrorism is in our neighbourhood,” Chidamabaram said in his opening remarks at the meeting. He said different terrorist groups, operating from the safe havens in Pakistan were becoming increasingly fused; the society in Pakistan had become increasingly radicalised, its economy had weakened and the state structure had become fragile. At a joint press conference after the dialogue, Secretary Napolitano was, however, quite careful while replying to questions pertaining to Pakistan. “I am here to talk about our strategic partnership…it is going to be intensified in the months to come,” she said when asked to respond to Chidamabaram’s remarks that Pakistan was the epicentre of terrorism.

However, she did acknowledge that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) was as dangerous a terrorist organisation as the Al-Qaida. “The LeT is ranked right up there with the Al-Qaida and the Al-Qaida-related groups as a terrorist organisation, one that seeks to harm people and take innocent lives. In the US perspective, the LeT is an organisation of the same ranking as the Al-Qaida-related groups.”

Asked if the US would use its influence on Pakistan to build pressure on that country for the prosecution of LeT chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who is believed to have masterminded the Mumbai attacks, the US official again declined to comment on what Pakistan should do.

“The Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) is in Pakistan today and I leave the comments about Pakistan for her. She will make some comment,” she said.

Chidambaram said he had a “good” meeting with his US counterpart and the second round of the dialogue would be held next year in Washington after “a lot of work would have been done” by the two sides.

The two countries also decided to maintain regular dialogue to share information and assessment on equipment, technologies and systems for homeland security and counter-terrorism; and to facilitate bilateral technology transfer and trade in these items.

It was decided that the Home Secretary of India and the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security of the US would meet at the end of six months to review the progress in collaboration between the two countries.





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