India – Pakistan Tensions Rise Following Parliament Attack
Indian Home Minister Lal Advani, the government’s second highest official, leveled the charge during a speech to parliament on Tuesday.
“Last week’s attack on Parliament is undoubtedly the most audacious and most alarming act of terrorism in the history of two decades of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in India,” Advani said in the speech that was also broadcast live on television. “This time, the terrorists and their mentors across the border had the temerity to try to wipe out the entire political leadership of India.”
Advani stopped short of outlining any type of response against Pakistan raising hopes that the tensions may not escalate quickly into armed conflict.
Privately, Indian leaders continued to use strong language in discussing possible responses.
“The punishment will be as big as the crime,” Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was quoted as saying by his party’s spokesman V. K. Malhotra before the parliament session. “It is an attack on our country and we will decide the punishment.”
On the floor of the parliament, Indian Deputy Foreign Minister Omar Abdullah said the government would only respond militarily if other options were exhausted.
“Force, violence and war will never be our first option. This I can assure you on behalf of the government,” Abdullah told Parliament.
India’s main opposition Congress party also urged restraint.
“The remedy should not be worse than the malady,” said Shivraj Patil, a Congress leader. “War should be the last option, after all other options are exhausted. We don’t need rhetoric but balance. We have not yet exhausted our diplomatic weapons.”
Commentators in India called on the Bush administration to pressure Pakistan to crack down on militants within their own borders as part of their participation in the U.S. war against terrorism.
“Given the U.S. interest in Pakistan, the way out is clearly for us to involve America in our investigations. If the FBI is willing to help out, let India accept it. And for one very good reason,” The Times of India editorialized Tuesday. “However spectacular the nature of evidence produced by our investigative agencies, Pakistan will always find ways to reject it… If the Indian investigation bears the stamp of FBI approval, Pakistan — not to mention the world at large — will have to go along.”
Pakistani media reports refuted the connection between the fight against al-Qaida and the parliament attack.
“This time India is exploiting the U.S. precedent of attacking first and talking later and has played on the theme of terrorism to earn world sympathy,” the Nation, an English-language newspaper said on Monday. “And yet whoever is behind this misguided abortive attack on the Indian parliament played right into India’s hands.”
U.S. officials said they were closely monitoring the situation and hoped both sides would show restraint.
“We hope that India will share all the information that they have acquired concerning this — this tragedy in their parliament building in New Delhi with the Pakistanis,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday night on the NewsHour. “I think we all have to be very careful about this. We would not wish to see this escalate to a direct exchange between the two nations going after each other, as opposed to going after their common enemy, which is terrorist organizations that conduct these kinds of horrible, horrible attacks.”
India has accused two Pakistan-based Kashmir separatist groups, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, of launching the December 13th attack on the Indian parliament.
Six policemen and a gardener were killed when five gunmen armed with AK-47s and explosives stormed the parliament building. All five assailants, who drove into the parliament complex in a car with government markings, were also killed during a 30-minute gunfight.
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf condemned the attack, but his government has requested to see the Indian evidence against the groups before they make any arrests in the case.
More than a dozen Islamic guerrilla groups are fighting India’s rule over about 45 percent of Kashmir. Pakistan controls about 35 percent of the Himalayan territory, and China holds the rest.
Two out of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since independence in 1947 have been over Kashmir.
India has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring and funding the Islamic militants fighting for control of Kashmir. Pakistan says it supports their cause, but denies providing any aid.