Rice tells Pakistan to act ‘or US will’
By Baqir Sajjad Syed
ISLAMABAD, Dec 5: The US Secretary of State, Dr Condoleezza Rice, is reported to have told Pakistan that there is ‘irrefutable evidence’ of involvement of elements in the country in the Mumbai attacks and that it needs to act urgently and effectively to avert a strong international response.
The information emerging after her departure indicates that in her meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani during her four-hour stay in Islamabad, she had told the them that Islamabad’s options were quite limited.
Contrary to the formal statements issued by Pakistani authorities and her own statement at the Chaklala Airbase before her departure, sources said she “pushed the Pakistani leaders to take care of perpetrators, otherwise the US will act”.
She is reported to have said that the response needed to be “effective and focused” and that India was thinking on similar lines.
Dr Rice had told the media at Chaklala that there had been no talk of military action and the discussions had focussed on ways of dealing with the problem of terrorism.
She hinted at having communicated to Pakistani leaders that the matter of dealing with the perpetrators was more urgent than they might have thought. She said: “There is urgency in getting to the bottom of it; there is urgency in bringing the perpetrators to justice; and there is urgency for using the information to disrupt and prevent further attacks.”
Sources privy to the meetings said Pakistan had expressed its readiness to work jointly with India in investigating the incident, but had wanted such a cooperation to be comprehensive and also addressed its own concerns.
However, Ms Rice was reportedly not ready to listen to Pakistan’s grievances about India’s interference in Balochistan, the role of Indian consulates along the Afghan border in promoting instability in Pakistan and other such issues. Instead, she told Pakistani leaders that she would like to discuss only the issue at hand.
Meanwhile, despite Dr Rice’s hopes that the two countries would keep their channels of communication open, the India-Pakistan Composite Dialogue has effectively been put on hold, making the peace process one of the major casualties of the Mumbai attacks.
“Proposed dates for the meetings of different segments of the composite dialogue were being finalised, but the entire process has now come to a halt,” a source in Foreign Office told Dawn.
Sources in the Indian High Commission have indicated that the peace talks would not resume until Pakistan fully addressed their concerns.
The trade talks have already been postponed.
Similarly, a meeting of the defence secretaries of the two countries expected to be held in January is unlikely to go ahead. A visit by a team from India’s Planning Commission has also been put off.
A meeting of technical experts on the Sir Creek was postponed earlier because of technical reasons and it is not being rescheduled.
The fifth round of the composite dialogue began in July this year with a meeting of foreign secretaries of both countries in New Delhi.
The composite dialogue was last suspended by India in July 2006 after another terrorist attack on Mumbai’s commuter trains.
Foreign Minister Qureshi had earlier said that the peace process was under stress because of the terrorist incident, but expressed the hope that the two countries would soon overcome the hiccup in their ties.
After a meeting with the Indian High Commissioner, MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar told DawnNews TV that the four-year-old peace process between Pakistan and India had suffered a major setback as a result of the Mumbai attacks