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Pranab rules out military action

Sandeep Dikshit

‘Pakistan asked to hand over several suspects’

NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said “time will show” what action India will take in response to the Mumbai terror attacks.

Every sovereign nation has the right to protect its territorial integrity and take action as it saw fit, he told journalists. He, however, cautioned against misinterpreting his observation to mean military action.

“What will be done, time will show and you will come to know,” Mr. Mukherjee said when asked about U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s suggestion that India had the “right to protect itself.”

Mr. Mukherjee’s remark came even as three influential United States Senators, including John McCain who lost the presidential race, “struck by the emotions” expressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr. Mukherjee, urged India not to consider the option of war.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on her visit here on Wednesday, is expected to urge India to exercise restraint in the light of Dr. Singh’s statement that there would be a “cost” attached if neighbours allowed their territories to be used for terror attacks on India.

Highly placed official sources also dismissed the talk of India mobilising troops on the border, suspending air and rail links and putting a halt to the peace process as “motivated propaganda,” aimed at diverting the attention from the Mumbai attacks.

They said it was not correct on the part of a section of media to suggest that Mr. Mukherjee spoke in a threatening tone to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

“This is nothing but propaganda. Mr. Mukherjee had one conversation, that too with Mr. Qureshi while he did not speak to Mr. Zardari. It was a polite conversation and he spoke from a prepared text,” they said.

Speaking after an Indo-Arab function, Mr. Mukherjee said India had called for handing over several persons suspected of having committed acts of terror on its territory and New Delhi would wait for Pakistan’s response.

“Now, we have in our demarche asked [for] the arrest and handover of those persons who are settled in Pakistan and who are fugitives of Indian law… there are lists of about 20 persons. [These] lists are sometimes altered and this exercise is going on and we have renewed it in our demarche,” he said.

Mr. McCain, who has advocated using military power in the U.S.–led war against terror, on Tuesday said “no” when asked whether repeated terror attacks on India meant that New Delhi should follow the U.S. and attack Pakistan.

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