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Singh leaves Pak door ajar

St Petersburg, July 16: Questioning Pakistan’s commitment to fight terrorism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today demanded to see “action on the ground”.

However, he refused to shut the door on peace with Pakistan, arguing that both countries “must find new pathways to establish friendly relations”. He pointed out that although they had an obligation to work together, “in a democracy, there are limits to what the leadership can do” in the face of large-scale terrorism.

Talking to the media on board his special flight to attend the G8 summit here, Singh revealed that after the Mumbai blasts, contact had been made with Islamabad at “all levels”. But he clarified that he had not talked to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

He sounded disappointed with Musharraf but refrained from making any harsh statement. “In all these matters, there is a learning process. General Musharraf is the President of Pakistan and we have to deal with people who are in government,” he commented wryly.

However, he also said: “The terrorist acts (in Mumbai) were on a scale that they could not have been accomplished without some external involvement. That is what I would like to say at this juncture.”

Privately of course, officials accompanying him claimed that 80 per cent of the terrorist action against India was by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. “The LeT is a creature of the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence of the Pakistan Army). Musharraf is the army chief. If he does not control the ISI, then he is in trouble,” an official said sarcastically.

The Prime Minister did not seem inclined to introduce stricter laws to deal with terror like the US and Britain had done after being hit by terrorists. He rejected a suggestion to re-introduce the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

“Terrorist acts took place even when Pota was there. Akshardham was attacked when Pota was there. The Mumbai blasts in 2003 were there when Pota was there. So I think it is far from true that Pota is required to deal with terrorists,” he said. “We will strengthen our intelligence gathering ability, we will look at the security apparatus, both at the central and state levels, and we will see it acquires more teeth.”

The Prime Minister denied any unhappiness with the home ministry’s performance. “There is no reason that I should not be satisfied with the home ministry. But we have to upgrade our intelligence gathering, upgrade our ability to cope with terrorist acts and we have to strengthen our disaster management capabilities. We will do whatever is necessary to strengthen our resolve to come out victorious in the war against terrorism.”

Singh claimed that while macro-level intelligence was available about some terror groups having infiltrated into India and planning to target vital economic installations and religious places, micro-level information was lacking.

The big picture was clear even to Maharashtra police and they had recovered 43 kg of RDX near Aurangabad, he pointed out. “But that the (Mumbai) suburban railway would be the precise target was not known. Terrorists have the advantage of surprise. We were victims of that. So, we need to strengthen our intelligence gathering ability.”

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