India wants the Mumbai attack planners to be extradited to India, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said yesterday, despite reports that New Delhi had no problems with their being tried in Pakistan.
“We have never given up the demand that the perpetrators of the terror act should be handed over to India,” Mukherjee said. “There is no question of that [giving up the extradition demand] or climb down.”
The minister was reported to have said this week in an interview with the India Today media group that those accused in the Mumbai attacks could be tried and punished in Pakistan, a comment Indian newspapers interpreted as a climbdown in New Delhi’s demand for extradition of militants.
Tensions have flared between the nuclear-armed neighbors since the attacks. New Delhi has blamed the banned Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is fighting Indian rule in divided Kashmir, for the November bloodbath, which left 174 people dead, including nine gunmen.
India went into diplomatic overdrive to gain support for its case after the November attacks that killed 179 people, but some of its Western allies such as the US and Britain expressed doubts New Delhi had enough evidence to implicate the Pakistani state.
Besides demanding extradition of the accused, India also wants Pakistan to destroy what it says are militant camps.
India has handed Pakistan data from satellite phones used by the attackers and what it describes as the confession of a surviving gunman, part of a dossier of evidence.
Pakistan has said the dossier did not amount to evidence and that the “information” needed to be carefully examined.
Milliband yesterday met key Pakistani leaders, one day after urging Islamabad to show “zero tolerance” toward militant groups blamed for the Mumbai attacks.
Miliband went directly into talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi upon his arrival from India, officials from both countries said.
He was expected to meet Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani before departing today, a Pakistani foreign ministry official said.
The British foreign secretary was also scheduled to call on influential former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whose party rules Pakistan’s political heartland of Punjab province, the official said.
Miliband’s visit comes one month after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged £6 million (US$9 million) to help Pakistan tackle militancy during his own visit to Islamabad.
Brown and Miliband have said that London has a vested interest in coming to Islamabad’s aid, as the majority of terror plots investigated by British authorities in London have links back to Pakistan.
Though Miliband was sure to address a range of issues related to the fight against extremism, officials said the meetings here would likely focus on the simmering tensions between India and Pakistan over the Mumbai attacks.
Islamabad has said it is doing all that it can to crack down on militant groups, announcing on Thursday that it has so far detained more than 70 members of an Islamic charity linked to Lashkar and placed 124 others under surveillance.
“We are very, very serious” about fighting extremism, Pakistani interior ministry chief Rehman Malik told a press conference.
In a speech on Thursday at the Taj hotel in India’s financial center one of the locations targeted in the attacks, Miliband called on Pakistan to show no mercy towards such groups.