Brown blames Pakistan militants over Mumbai
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown blamed banned Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for last month’s deadly Mumbai attacks as tension between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan simmered on Sunday.
Pakistan said on Saturday Indian warplanes had inadvertently violated its airspace, but New Delhi later denied the incident and accused Islamabad of trying to divert attention.
Brown met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday during a brief visit to New Delhi and said he would carry India’s concerns over the Mumbai attacks to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari later on Sunday.
India, backed by the United States, has called on Pakistan to crack down on Pakistan-based militant groups after last month’s Mumbai attacks, in which 179 people were killed during a three-day siege in India’s financial heart.
It blames Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a militant group it says was set up by Pakistan to fight Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region, for the Mumbai attacks.
“The group responsible for the attacks is LeT and they have a great deal to answer for, and I hope to convey some of the views of the Indian prime minister to the president of Pakistan when I meet him,” Brown told reporters in India’s capital.
Islamabad has blamed “non-state actors” for the attacks and has vowed to cooperate with investigations, but has also repeatedly said anyone caught in Pakistan would be tried in Pakistan.
Analysts say retaliatory strikes or other military action by India remain very unlikely, as New Delhi believes they would be counterproductive by strengthening the hands of hawks and extremists in Pakistan.
Pakistan has rounded up some of the 40 people India has demanded should be extradited but says that New Delhi has not provided any evidence of links to the attacks. Lashkar has denied involvement.
Brown criticised the “perverse and unacceptable messages” sent by terrorist groups who exploit people of “good religions and faiths”, offering New Delhi help in its fight against militancy.
“It’s important to recognise that wherever there is terrorism it has to be fought, and where there is terrorism it affects the stability and cohesion of countries,” Brown said.
British police may wish to question the lone surviving gunman from the Mumbai attacks, which killed one British national and two people with dual British-Indian nationality, a British government source said.
The surviving gunman, identified as Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, is being questioned by Indian investigators.
“We want to get more information on how Lashkar is working,” the British source said.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars and went to the brink of a fourth in 2002 after an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 that New Delhi blamed on militants based in Pakistan.
In accusing Indian warplanes of entering its airspace, Pakistan said on Saturday there was no cause for alarm about an escalation of tensions between the uneasy neighbours.
An Indian air force spokesperson on Sunday denied the claim but Pakistan stood by the accusation.
Pakistan’s air force said two violations happened. One in the Kashmir area and the other around Lahore in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in full but rule it in parts.
Pakistan shot down two Indian planes which it said had gone into its airspace during the 1999 Kargil conflict, fought on the Line of Control dividing Kashmir.