Britain asks Pakistan to act against militancy
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband yesterday called on Pakistan to show "zero tolerance" towards militant groups based in the country that have been blamed for the Mumbai terror attacks.
"We know the attacks were carried out by Laskhar-e-Taiba operating from the territory of Pakistan," he said in a speech at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, one of the locations targeted by the gunmen who killed 165 people.
"There must be zero tolerance towards such organisations," Miliband said.
India blames the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for training, equipping and financing the 10 gunmen who used automatic weapons and hand grenades to bring havoc to city during a bloody siege that lasted 60 hours.
Miliband emphasised that Britain was at risk of attack from similar extremists.
"It is a big issue for us in Britain too, because the majority of terror plots that Britain faces are linked backed to Pakistan," he said.
In 2005, 52 people were killed when four Islamists -- motivated in part by Britain's involvement in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq -- blew themselves up on London's public transport network.
Copycat attacks were thwarted two weeks later.
In the attacks on Mumbai, 32 people were killed at the Taj hotel, while others died at another hotel, the main train station, a restaurant and a Jewish cultural centre.
The modern Tower wing of the iconic Taj hotel reopened before Christmas but the older Palace section, which was badly damaged during the stand-off, remains closed.
"This was an attack on a horrific scale, of a horrific length," Miliband said. "A strike at the heart of one of the world's most plural, diverse and tolerant societies."
In New Delhi on Tuesday, Miliband restated London's view that the Islamabad government did not direct the attacks, though India's prime minister has said the Mumbai militants had the support of "some official agencies" in Pakistan.
Pakistan strongly rejects such charges, and said it is rooting out militants within its borders.
Interior ministry chief Rehman Malik said on Thursday Pakistan had so far arrested 124 people in a crackdown on banned groups in the wake of the attacks.
Malik said those arrested were members of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity seen as a front for the banned LeT.
"We are very, very serious" about fighting extremism, Malik told a press conference, saying the anti-terror fight was the "only option" for Pakistan.
As tensions remain high, the head of India's army on Wednesday confirmed that Pakistan has redeployed troops along the two countries' tense border but said he regarded war as a "last resort."
Senior defence officials in Pakistan said last month that troops were being moved from the northwest tribal areas bordering Afghanistan -- hotbeds of Taliban and al-Qaeda activity -- to the eastern border near India.
Miliband also used his speech in Mumbai to distance the British government, a close ally of the US, from the "war on terror" policies adopted by President George W Bush.
"The notion is misleading and mistaken," he said, just days before Barack Obama takes office on Tuesday. "Historians will judge whether it has done more harm than good. But we need to move on to meet the challenges we face."
Miliband is due to travel to Islamabad on Friday for meetings with Pakistan leaders.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's powerful military chief Thursday vowed that his forces were "fully prepared" to meet any challenges, one day after his Indian counterpart said all options remained on the table.
Relations between the two sides have been strained since the Mumbai attacks in November, which India has blamed on Pakistan-based militants. Pakistani officials said last month that troops were moved to the Indian border.
India's army chief General Deepak Kapoor said Wednesday that while he regarded war as a "last resort," the current situation meant that "we in India are keeping all our options open and that must be clearly understood.”