NEW DELHI – India’s prime minister signaled Tuesday that his government would not act unilaterally against the extremist networks allegedly behind last month’s Mumbai terrorist attacks, attempting to ease tensions over accusations that Pakistan is not hunting down the militants on its territory.
Speaking after meeting with India’s ambassador corps, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he would rely on international pressure to push Pakistan into taking action against groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India and its Western allies believe orchestrated the attack.
“The issue is not war. The issue is terror and territory in Pakistan being used to provoke, to aid and abet terrorism,” Singh told reporters. “Nobody wants war.”
Singh’s comments came after days of heated rhetoric on both sides and military maneuvers by the Pakistanis. On Monday, Pakistan scrambled fighter jets over several of its major cities, citing the need to step up “vigilance.”
The sorties came after India’s foreign minister told the gathering of ambassadors, who are in New Delhi for three days of meetings, that “we will take all measures necessary as we deem fit” to deal with terrorist threats. The statement appeared to put military action back on the table after weeks of insistence that India would rely on diplomacy.
Tensions have been building between the nuclear-armed rivals since the Nov. 26 attacks, in which at least 170 people were killed. India has insisted it has evidence the attackers were Pakistani nationals and had backing from Lashkar, based in Pakistan’s lawless eastern tribal regions.
India cites evidence, including a letter sent to the Pakistani Embassy here by the lone gunman who was captured, Ajmal Amir Kasab, in which Indian officials said Kasab acknowledges his Pakistani citizenship. But Islamabad insists it has insufficient evidence to tie the attack to Pakistani elements.
At a news conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, Rehman Malik, head of Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, said Pakistan has no record of anyone with Kasab’s name and said India has yet to provide Pakistan with adequate evidence to investigate ties to the attackers.
Singh appeared to ratchet down the rhetoric, however, saying he expected the international community to persuade Pakistan to act on its own to shut down the “terrorist machine” that operates on Pakistani soil.
“That is our demand, and I believe it is in the interest of the people of India and in the interest of the people of Pakistan, also,” Singh said.