India accuses Pakistanis of link to Delhi bombings

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The Independent Online

Pakistan asked India to provide evidence that Pakistan-based militants were involved in Saturday's attacks, in which at least 61 people were killed, and promised full co-operation in the continuing investigation.

In the past, an accusation like this from India would have started the drums of war beating. Only three years ago, the two countries came to the brink of nuclear war after India accused Pakistan of being behind an attack on the parliament building in Delhi, and other attacks that followed. It is a measure of how far the peace process has advanced that this time the rhetoric has been muted and Delhi has chosen its words carefully to avoid any suggestion that the Pakistani state may have been involved.

Yesterday's accusation came after Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf called the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to offer his condolences over the bombings. "The Prime Minister drew the President's attention to Pakistan's commitment to ending cross-border terrorism and said that we continue to be disturbed and dismayed at indications of the external linkages of terrorist groups with the 29 October bombing, and said India expects Pakistan to act against terrorism directed at India," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the Pakistani foreign ministry responded: "The President has said we are ready to co-operate in the investigations. But evidence has to be shared with us. In the absence of that it will be just a claim. While pointing fingers on any Pakistan entity, they should also share evidence with us."

Mr Singh's accusation is a clear reference to one of the many Islamic militant groups based in Pakistan which regularly infiltrate members into Indian-held Kashmir to carry out attacks. A little-known Pakistani group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but Indian security services have said they suspect Islami Inqilab Mahaz may be a front for the far more powerful Lashkar-e Toiba group.

Lashkar was one of the groups India accused of carrying out the 2001 attack on the parliament, and is one of the militant factions backed by Pakistan's ISI intelligence service to carry out a proxy war on India in Kashmir during the Nineties. Pakistan banned Lashkar after the 2001 attack and the official line is that the ISI has severed its links with it.

Lashkar has been allowed to continue to operate to a considerable extent in Pakistan under a different name, and Indian officials have at times accused the ISI of continuing to back it. But Mr Singh's accusation yesterday of a Pakistani link was made in remarkably restrained language compared with the past, and seemed designed to allow for diplomatic manoeuvring and avoid any serious confrontation.