Islamabad blamed for Bombay blasts: India says Pakistan is terrorist state

INDIA is getting up a diplomatic campaign to have Pakistan declared a terrorist state by Britain, the United States and other nations. Evidence has been uncovered, according to government officials, linking Islamabad to the Bombay bombings on 12 March in which more than 300 people were killed.

Dinesh Singh, India's Foreign Minister, said recently that Pakistan's reluctance to hand over a smuggling family known as the Memons, who are prime suspects in the bombings and are believed to be in Karachi, confirms 'it is a state which harbours terrorists'.

Sharad Pawar, the powerful chief minister of Maharashtra, went a step further. He alleged that Pakistan's secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, trained and supported the bombers who set off 11 explosions around Bombay. In Islamabad, a Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed India's charges as 'a vilification campaign'.

Diplomats in New Delhi expect India formally to accuse Pakistan of terrorism and to provide details of alleged ties with the bombing suspects. Because of Pakistan's secret nuclear programme and aid given to Indian separatists, the Clinton administration is already considering adding Pakistan to its list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

New Delhi is hoping that this fresh evidence will push Washington into doing so. The US would then cut all aid to Pakistan and allies such as Britain, Japan and Germany would be likely to follow suit. The US would also use its clout to block loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to Pakistan, once Washington's main ally in the region.

So far, Bombay police investigating the bombings have arrested 32 suspects, most of them connected to Muslim underworld gangs with ties to Dubai and other Middle Eastern countries. Following a tip-off, police yesterday discovered 1,900kg (4,000lb) of plastic explosives dumped in a mangrove swamp north of Bombay. The destructive potential of these explosives is huge: 30 times the amount used in the 12 March blasts, which were among the world's biggest terrorist bombings.

Police say that criminals were probably acting as mercenaries for some organisation outside India. Bombay police said that the scale of the bombing operation was beyond the city's notorious gangs.

The Memon brothers are allegedly the link between Pakistani intelligence and the bombers. After the blasts, police picked up a van owned by the brothers loaded with hand-grenades, guns and detonators. Then a scooter with an unexploded bomb was traced back to them. By then the Memons had fled. Pakistan denies they ever arrived in Karachi.

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