Hand over terrorist suspects for trial, India tells Pakistan

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The Independent Online

As Tony Blair flew home from south Asia yesterday, India ridiculed the notion that Pakistan had made useful concessions on neutralising militants during his visit.

General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's President, has arrested several hundred members of militant organisations based in Pakistan, and on Monday, at a joint press conference with Mr Blair, he promised more of the same.

India has given Pakistan a list of 20 alleged terrorists it wants handed over for trial, even though the two nuclear-capable neighbours have no extradition treaty and no precedent for transferring suspects.

General Musharraf was careful not to reject out of hand India's demand. "We talked about the list of names," he said of his discussions with Mr Blair. "We have not fully analysed ... details of individuals."

But India's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Nirupama Rao, scorned his comments. "I don't see any shift in their position on terrorism as directed against India," she said. "I think the time has come for Pakistan to shed the ambivalence it continues to maintain on such issues ... What we expect from Pakistan is concrete, serious, substantial steps to deal with cross-border terrorism and groups that operate from Pakistani soil. We have yet to see satisfactory action taken."

Tension between the two countries rose to a 30-year high because of the 13 December attack on India's parliament that left 14 people dead. India blamed the attack on two Islamic groups based in Pakistan that are fighting to detach Kashmir from India and make it part of Pakistan.

General Musharraf has arrested leaders of the two groups, but many of the other people he has had picked up in the past three weeks have no connection to the 12-year Kashmir insurgency.

Instead, they belong to sectarian groups with a history of committing atrocities inside Pakistan – groups that General Musharraf has been itching to act against.

For India, all those fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir are terrorists. In Islamabad, Mr Blair agreed to go along with that definition, declaring: "No matter what the political cause, there can be no justification for terrorist acts." General Musharraf, however, insists on drawing a distinction between terrorists and ethnic Kashmir freedom fighters.