The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Neighbours in war of words

Mumbai, Aug. 26: Seething over the spilling of innocent blood, L.K. Advani today turned his full fury on Pakistan, drawing recriminatory salvos from across the border.

Inspecting the blast site at the Gateway of India where the blood of the victims was yet to dry, the deputy Prime Minister said the proxy war waged by Pakistan was not only directed at Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Delhi, but was aimed at destabilising the whole country.

“The world has got it wrong because our neighbour’s war against us goes far beyond the boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir. It looks at destabilising the whole of India,” Advani said.

Pakistan reacted strongly, with a foreign ministry statement describing Advani’s accusations as “baseless and irresponsible” and not in keeping with the recent conciliatory moves by the two countries. “Pakistan categorically rejects such allegations,” it said.

Taking a potshot at Advani, the statement added: “It serves no purpose to point accusing fingers towards Pakistan and even worse to try to make domestic political capital from such a gruesome tragedy.”

Advani, who held fire for a day, could not restrain himself from criticising Pakistan.

Armed with statistics of the earlier blasts in the city, he said the involvement of the Lashkar-e-Toiba raised questions about Pakistan’s sincerity when it spoke of peace.

“Nobody claimed the bodies of the two LeT militants who were recently killed in an encounter here as they were Pakistanis,” he said.

“This raises doubts in our minds about Pakistan’s involvement in the whole exercise.”

Advani also scoffed at Pakistan’s condemnation of the twin blasts “as acts of terrorism”.

“Pakistan’s condemnation regarding the attacks will be regarded earnest only if Islamabad hands over 20 absconders wanted by India,” he said.

The Pakistani statement countered this, saying it has already been made clear that the 19 suspects Advani demanded in connection with previous bombings were not on its soil. India has provided no evidence to suggest they were, it added.

Information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed accused Advani of “indulging in a non-serious talk”. “We are not involved in the war in India…. We don’t need it and it is India’s own problem,” he said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who also rushed here today to express her grief and take stock of the situation, avoided references to the neighbour while articulating her anguish.

“My thoughts ever since I heard of the blast have been with the families of those who have lost their dear ones,” Sonia said.

“This is a terrible tragedy and we condemn it with all the strength at our command. Those who committed this crime must be caught and punished. The state government is working closely with central authorities on this.”

Sonia, who visited the three hospitals where the injured are convalescing, made an appeal to maintain peace and promised that the government will do all to prevent such incidents in future.

Shying away from questions on the Congress-led Democratic Front government’s failure to contain terrorist attacks, Sonia said this was a time to make concerted efforts towards tackling terrorism.

“We must all work together,” she said, also ducking queries on the government’s “intelligence failure”.

Advani met chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and his deputy, Chhagan Bhujbal, and promised that the culprits will soon be arrested.

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