US: LeT as bad as Qaeda
By Rizwan Khatik - Sat May 28, 7:12 am
Bracketing the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba alongside terrorist outfit Al Qaeda and its affiliates, the US on Friday assured India of access to Tahawwur Rana, a key accused in the 26/11 terror attack case facing trial in a Chicago court.
The assurance was made during talks between home minister P. Chidambaram and his US counterpart, Ms Janet Napolitano, here on Friday. “…the LeT ranks right up there with Al Qaeda and related groups as terrorist organisations, one that seeks to harm people and takes innocent lives,” she said.
Ms Napolitano pointed out that the US had given India “full access” to US-based LeT operative David Coleman Headley who played a key role in the Mumbai attacks. “The US has given India full access to the witness and once the case is over more access will be given. It is an example of how our two countries cooperate,” she said.
India has sought 33 documents, including photographs, emails, reconnaissance videos of 26/11 sites and other evidence placed in the US court during the trial of Headley and his accomplice Rana. It has also sought access to Rana and a few witnesses in the case in that country.
However, while Mr Chidambaram, in his opening remarks, termed Pakistan a “global epicentre of terrorism” where the “infrastructure of terrorism” is flourishing as an “instrument of state policy”, Ms Napolitano skirted questions from journalists on whether the US would lean on Islamabad to end terror directed against India. “The secretary of state (Hillary Clinton) is today in Pakistan and has already commented on it,” she said.
When asked about Headley’s revelations in a US court that Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, had master-minded the 26/11 attack, Ms Napolitano said her dialogue was limited to “strategic partnership between India and the US” and that she could not comment on matters that are sub-judice.
However, she evaded questions on LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, believed to be roaming free in Pakistan. “Our perspective, the US perspective, is the LeT is very, very — I do not want to say important as that gives it too much credibility — but an organisation that is of the same ranking as the Al Qaeda-related groups,” she said at a joint press conference with Mr Chidambaram.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Chidambaram, in his speech, drew her attention to the different terrorist groups operating from “safe havens in Pakistan”. “Today, Pakistan itself faces a major threat from the same forces. Its people as well as its state institutions are under attack,” he said. “The events of the past few days, especially inside Pakistan, speak to the successes and to the enduring risks and challenges,” Mr Chidambaram said, pointing towards the detection and killing of Osama bin Laden by US special forces in Abbottabad.
In a joint statement, India and the US vowed to defeat the forces of terrorism through a series of steps, like intelligence-sharing and pressing Pakistan to move expeditiously in prosecuting those involved in the Mumbai attacks. Six sub-groups, comprising US and Indian security officials, met during the day and prepared reports towards enhancing bilateral cooperation through agency-to-agency engagement, information-sharing, cyber-security, illicit financing, large-city policing, counterfeit currency, forensics and investigation. The two sides agreed to designate points of contact and establish protocols for engagement.
The home minister proposed a meeting between the home secretary and the US deputy secretary for homeland security after six months to review progress.