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U.S. Military, Interpol Officials Seek To Ease India-Pakistan Tensions

Pakistani official Rehman Malik has said his country's domestic and international standing has improved during the crisis.
The head of the global police agency Interpol and the U.S. military's highest-ranking officer have both traveled to Islamabad this week as part of continuing efforts to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan.

Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble's visit to Islamabad came just days after his trip to New Delhi, during which he offered his agency's complete support in investigating the Mumbai attacks.

Speaking to journalists in Islamabad on December 23, Noble announced that an Interpol rapid-reaction team was deployed to India a few days ago. But he also expressed disappointment that the Indian government has yet to allow its security agencies to share information with Interpol.

"In the specific case of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Interpol has not received yet any information. For me to make any kind of statement -- about the accuracy or inaccuracy, the reliability or the unreliability -- of anything said and reported in the newspapers...." Noble said.

"If no information has been shared with the police and not with the Interpol, then how can anyone make any kind of determination about the identity of those people involved?" Noble added. "There are two ways for that to happen: One way is for there to be a court proceeding at the national level, and the other way is for the Interpol channels to be used internationally.

"To date, no information has been shared. We are hopeful it will happen very quickly."

In the aftermath of the late-November attacks in Mumbai that killed 171 people, India has alleged that all 10 of the gunmen were from Pakistan.

Indian authorities have arrested the only surviving gunman, Muhammad Ajmal Amir Kasab. On December 22, India passed to Pakistani diplomats in New Delhi a letter in which Kasab reportedly claims he is Pakistani and requests help from Islamabad. Pakistan reportedly took note of the Kasab letter, but asked India for "ample proof" of Kasab's identity.

The handing over of the letter has been seen as an attempt by India to pressure Pakistan to accept the role of Pakistanis in the attacks. Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that extremist militant groups in Pakistan are "the greatest danger to peace and security in the entire world."

Mukherjee also said international pressure on Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks has been insufficient.

Increased Diplomatic Activity

The recent diplomatic activity by Western leaders has been viewed as instrumental in preventing the two nuclear-armed neighbors from moving toward open hostilities.

In his second visit to Pakistan in a month, the chairman of the U.S. Joints Chief of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, met with senior Pakistani leaders on December 22.

According to a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, he thanked them for their recent crackdown on Laskar-e-Taiba and other extremist groups.

Western leaders apparently want to see more such actions. The U.S. Embassy statement added that "Mullen encouraged the Pakistani leaders to use this tragic event as an opportunity to forge more productive ties with India and to seek ways in which both nations can combat the common threat of extremism together."

Meanwhile, the adviser in charge of Pakistan's Interior Ministry, Rehman Malik, has said his country's domestic and international standing has improved during the ongoing crisis.

Malik said that Pakistan "is in good condition. We are all united -- our nation is united. All the politicians are united too so there is no need to worry. The leadership from both sides [India and Pakistan] is demonstrating maturity. What we are experiencing -- terrorism -- India has experienced the same."

He added that the same people who carried out the Mumbai attacks, are the same people "who are carrying out suicide bombings here. Even if we consider the [Indian] accusations to be true, it proves that both countries have been targeted by the same terrorism. That's why we have asked for a joint investigation group [to probe the Mumbai attacks]."

Since the Mumbai attacks, India has halted a four-year-old peace process that had shown some visible improvements in its acrimonious relationship with Pakistan. New Delhi has also cancelled a cricket tour to Pakistan in January.

Analysts say the Indian efforts are primarily aimed at pressuring Pakistan to completely dismantle jihadi groups India sees as a strategic threat.
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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan.