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Delhi turns up handover pitch

New Delhi, Oct. 17: India today renewed its demand to Pakistan for the handover of Dawood Ibrahim so that he can be prosecuted for crimes committed in this country.

The move came after the US decision to list the don — who has a Pakistani passport and is believed to be living in Karachi — as a “specially designated global terrorist”.

“The designation recognises Dawood Ibrahim’s underworld and terrorist connections, his efforts to destabilise India, his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai bombings and his support to the Lashkar-e-Toiba,” the foreign ministry said this afternoon.

India described the US treasury department’s decision on Dawood as “a very important and significant step” and appealed to other countries to “disallow him transit or relocation from his current residence”.

The appeal gathers significance in view of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s first state visit to the United Arab Emirates beginning tomorrow. The UAE, particularly Dubai, has been one of the safe havens outside Pakistan for Dawood and his associates and India wants to ensure that in the coming months Dubai and other places in the Emirates stop giving shelter to him.

India feels that the US decision will step up pressure on both Pakistan and Dawood and significantly curtail his movement within and outside the country.

However, officials believe, this may not lead to Dawood’s extradition from Pakistan to India. “Such a possibility looks remote. But it is definitely going to step up pressure both on Pakistan and Dawood,” said a senior South Block official.

The US may have taken the decision after it discovered Dawood’s links with Lashkar and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida, but it establishes Delhi’s argument that terrorism in one part of the world cannot be segmented from the others as terrorist networks are interlinked. This in itself will weaken President Pervez Musharraf’s position as he has been denying knowledge of Dawood’s whereabouts.

“Pakistan may continue to provide him with a new identity and yet another passport. But it will have to be extremely careful as it will find it extremely difficult to get cooperation from other countries as it did in the past,” a South Block official said.

Dawood figures prominently in the “list of 20” criminals that India had handed over to Pakistan whose extradition Delhi had been demanding. Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner Munnawar Bhatti, was today called to the foreign ministry and told that India has repeatedly sought the handing over of Dawood.

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