Islamabad: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged a united stand against terrorism Thursday on a visit to Pakistan aimed at easing relations with India over last week’s attacks in Mumbai.
With tensions rising between them since India said that all the attackers in the brazen assault that left 188 people dead had come from Pakistan, Rice praised Pakistan’s efforts in the “war on terror.”
“I think it is clear that Pakistan is fighting its fight against terrorists,” she said at a joint press conference with President Asif Ali Zardari before winding up her lightning visit to the country.
She said she had found Pakistan’s leadership “focused and committed” to helping India investigate the attacks.
Pakistan has been a key US anti-terror ally since the 11 September attacks seven years ago, but many critics openly question whether elements in the Pakistan military and intelligence services support Islamist militants.
Pakistan’s role in the “war on terror” has come under renewed focus since last week’s stunning assault in Mumbai, which saw militants with guns and grenades lay siege to hotels and other sites in the city for 60 hours.
India says there is “no doubt” that all the militants, including the sole gunman captured alive and now in custody, had come from Pakistan and been coordinated from within Pakistan.
Zardari has repeatedly insisted that Pakistan is not responsible for the carnage and has demanded proof of India’s allegations - which have also been backed up by US officials.
Suspicion has fallen on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group which has fought Indian control of divided Kashmir and which attacked the Indian parliament in 2001, nearly pushing the two nations to another war.
Rice visited India on Wednesday and spent Thursday in Pakistan, meeting with Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other officials, looking to calm tensions and ensure Pakistani cooperation in the investigation.
But the Pakistan president indicated that any suspects on its soil would not be extradited to India. New Delhi has demanded that Pakistan hand over 20 terror suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba’s founder, Hafiz Saeed.