By Emily Wax and Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, December 4, 2008
NEW DELHI, Dec. 3 -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday urged Pakistan to act with "resolve and urgency" to help catch those responsible for last week's terrorist attacks in India, part of a stepped-up U.S. effort to ease tensions between the two nuclear powers.
Yet, even as Rice spoke in New Delhi, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Mumbai near the scene of the carnage chanting "death to Pakistan," evidence of the escalating pressure Indian politicians face as they craft their response to the attacks.
India has linked the 10 assailants to a Pakistan-based Islamist group, and many at the Mumbai protest advocated military action to combat a terrorist threat that they say the Pakistani government is either unable or unwilling to confront.
"This crowd is a warning to Pakistan to stop sending terrorists to India. We will not take this any longer," said Himanshu Majumdar, a 28-year-old accountant. "We have been talking peace with them for so long, what did we get? Terrorists?"
The Pakistani government has denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks, which claimed at least 171 lives and injured nearly 300 people. But Indian authorities have alleged that the attackers received training from former Pakistani army officers, and U.S. intelligence has corroborated their suspicions that the attack was planned and carried out by a Pakistani group, Lashkar-i-Taiba. Indian investigators have said that Yusuf Muzammil, a Lashkar leader thought to be based in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, was among the masterminds.
In a city still rattled by attacks that appeared to catch authorities unprepared, there were signs Wednesday that security in Mumbai remained porous: About 20 pounds of live explosives -- apparently left over from the 60-hour siege -- were found in a bag at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, where thousands of commuters had been riding trains in recent days to work and to school and where two gunmen open fired last week, Indian authorities said.
The explosives were collected along with a pile of luggage that passengers had abandoned as they fled the gunmen.
In New Delhi, Rice said she understood the pain felt by Indians, mentioning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States several times. "We have some sense of what this is like, the sense of vulnerability, the questions that arise and the desire to make sure it does not happen again," she said. She also noted that Pakistanis themselves are frequent victims of terrorist attacks.
"We all have a great interest in getting to the bottom of this," said Rice, who cut short a European farewell tour to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the attacks, in which gunmen struck two hotel complexes, a cafe, a train station, a Jewish center and other sites.
Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, standing at Rice's side, told reporters that there is no doubt the gunmen and their "controllers" came from Pakistan.
"The government of India is determined to act decisively to protect its territorial integrity and the right of our citizens to a peaceful life with all the means at our disposal," Mukherjee said.
Rice made demands on both countries. She said that Pakistan had a "special responsibility" to cooperate with India and help prevent attacks. She also warned India against any impulsive moves that could have "unintended consequences."
For the first time, Rice said the indiscriminate killing at several sites in India's financial capital bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda, though she did not suggest responsibility.
"Whether there is a direct al-Qaeda hand or not, this is clearly the kind of terrorism in which al-Qaeda participates . . . to send a message that people are not safe, that business centers are not safe. We experienced that in New York. What is important now is to go to the source, to follow every lead," Rice said.
In Pakistan, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani and urged them "to investigate aggressively any and all possible ties to groups in Pakistan," according to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
Mullen's visit came after a special parliamentary conference Tuesday in which dozens of Pakistani political leaders expressed sympathy for the victims of the attacks in a written resolution and called for "constructive engagement" with India. But the politicians took exception to what they described as "unsubstantiated allegations made in haste against Pakistan."
The attacks in Mumbai threaten to cause the deepest rupture in Indian-Pakistani relations since a Lashkar attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. In the aftermath of that attack, the two countries came to the brink of war, but it was averted after U.S. diplomatic intervention.
On Wednesday, the mood among at least some Indians was swinging back toward war. With candles in their hands as the sun set over the Arabian Sea, thousands of residents marched near the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, the landmark building that the gunmen had under siege for 60 hours.
"We are sick of these bombings. This is our city. Do we have a right to live in peace?" said Monish Gutka, 25, a stockbroker. "Anger against Pakistan is 100 percent now."
A group behind him shouted, "Long live Mother India." Others sang the national anthem. A group of women wore T-shirts over their saris that had a bloodstain-like design and the words: "Turn Anger Into Action." Some also vented anger at India's government for not preventing the attacks.
The protest was organized largely through the social networking Web site Facebook and via text messages, and the demonstrators came from all walks of life, including Bollywood movie stars, investment bankers, students and lawyers.
"The terrorists stuck South Mumbai, the most desirable address in India," said Uday Shankar, chief executive officer of Star India, which runs a group of entertainment and news TV channels. "It is a spontaneous tide that is rising. It will go away. But the anger, frustration and fear will stay."
Lakshmi reported from Mumbai. Correspondent Candace Rondeaux in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.