Rice urges Pakistan to act fast on Mumbai attacks

Rice urges Pakistan to act fast on Mumbai attacks

New Delhi: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Pakistan on Wednesday to cooperate “fully and transparently" in investigations into the Mumbai attacks that have roiled India-Pakistan relations.

“This is the time for everybody to cooperate and do so transparently, and this is especially a time for Pakistan to do so," Rice told a press conference in New Delhi.

India has said most, if not all, the 10 militants who rampaged through its financial capital killing 171 people were from Pakistan, including the one survivor.

It has threatened to pull out of a nearly five-year-old peace process between the nuclear rivals if Pakistan fails to act swiftly against those responsible.

Rice cut short a visit to Europe and flew to India as tensions soared in south Asia. She is expected to visit Pakistan as well, officials in Islamabad said.

“We have to act with urgency, we have to act with resolve and I have said that Pakistan needs to act with resolve and urgency and cooperate fully and transparently. That message has been delivered and will be delivered to Pakistan," Rice said.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said he doubted the Indian claims that the surviving gunman was Pakistani.

Zardari also signalled he would not accept an Indian demand to hand over 20 of its most wanted men that New Delhi says are living in Pakistan, saying if there was any evidence, they would be tried by his country’s judiciary.

“I don’t want to get into the specifics of what Pakistan may or may not do, but I am going to take as a firm commitment Pakistan’s stated commitment to get to the bottom of this and to know these are enemies of Pakistan as well," Rice said.

Rice said the attacks in Mumbai bore hallmarks of al Qaeda.

In other efforts to ease tensions between India and Pakistan, the top U.S. military commander flew into Islamabad.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will hold talks with the country’s civilian government and its powerful military, officials said.

India has long said Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act against anti-India militant groups there. The latest attacks risk unravelling improved ties between the adversaries, who have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

A large protest was planned in Mumbai on Wednesday night by residents more angry at what they see as a huge government security failure than Pakistani involvement.

With an election due by May, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is under pressure to craft a muscular response to opposition criticism, which has intensified since the attacks, that his ruling Congress party coalition is weak on security.

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said military action was not being considered but later warned that a peace process begun in 2004 was at risk if Pakistan did not act decisively.

Congress party head Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday travelled to the ceasefire line in Kashmir, a mountainous region over which India and Pakistan have fought for over half a century.

“India wants peaceful relations with all its neighbours, but this should not be taken as a weakness," Gandhi told an election rally.

A deterioration of ties could also put US counter-terrorism efforts in the region at risk - Islamabad has said the tensions may force it to shift troops from operations against al Qaeda militants on the Afghanistan border to the frontier with India.

India and Pakistan were on the brink of a fourth war in 2002, just a few years after both demonstrated nuclear weapons capabilities, following an attack on India’s parliament by Islamist militants.

They pulled back after frantic diplomacy by the United States and other allies.