LeT on same rank with al Qaeda in terror: US

The first round of the Homeland Security talks between India and US focussed on 26/11, bilateral cooperation, information sharing and investigation.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: After the successful conclusion of the first round of the Homeland Security dialogue between the two sides, India and the United States on Friday agreed that the two countries faced a common threat.

Addressing a joint press conference with his American counterpart Janet Napolitano, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said, “I am deeply grateful to the US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security for travelling to India along with her team and extending her country’s unconditional support in combating terrorism in all its form.”
The Home Minister, while suggesting that the first round of strategic dialogue between the two countries have been very constructive, said, “We look forward to our future meetings. I am optimistic that our future engagements will yield constructive results and help strengthen our strategic relationship.”

The Home Minister also proposed a meeting between Home Secretary and the US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security after six months to review progress. It was further agreed that the second round of the Indo-US Homeland Security will be held in the Washington DC.

Chidambaram appreciated America’s efforts to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack and others associated with it, to justice. During the talks, Chidambaram emphasised, "A strong and effective India-US cooperation in homeland security and counter-terrorism is indispensable for our strategic partnership."

"Our cooperation must cover all aspects of the challenges that we face (by) anticipating and predicting threats, taking preventive or pre-emptive measures or responding effectively and quickly to incidents. Therefore, we must further deepen our ties in intelligence, information and assessment sharing, cooperation in investigations and forensics, protecting cities, infrastructure, people and trade and developing capabilities," he said.

Janet Napolitano also reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to strengthen the strategic anti-terror ties between the two countries.
“We are here to talk about the strategic partnership, which the Unites States shares with India. I am hopeful that our relationship will only intensify in the days to come.”

“Our meeting focussed on some key areas including coastal security, mega city policing, countering illicit financing, trans-national crime, cyber security, accessing and sharing of data relating to terrorism, transfer of counter-terrorism and homeland security equipment to each other, “ she said.

The US Deputy Secretary stressed that both India and the United States needed to strengthen the information sharing network between the two countries.

While replying to a question whether the US administration will impose a ban on the dreaded militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Napolitano said, “LeT poses the same threat as al Qaeda and I do not want to give importance to it but all I can say is that it is an organisation of the same ranking as of al Qaeda.

The US official, when quizzed about the trial of Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana in connection with 26/11terror attacks in Mumbai, said, “The United States has given Indian investigators full access to all the witnesses in 26/11 trial in Chicago. This in itself is an example of our strong strategic ties with India.”

However, she refused to comment on the involvement of Pakistan`s ISI in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack as alleged by key conspirator David Coleman Headley.

US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security also expressed her sympathy for the Indian diplomat Debashish Biswas’ daughter Krittika Biswas, who has sued the New York City for allegedly arresting her on charges of sending obscene mails.
“I extend my sympathy to the young women, who was caught in an unfortunate situation in the US,” she remarked.

Ahead of the meeting, Home Minister P Chidambaram had made India’s stand clear on Pakistan when he told Janet Napolitano that Pakistan continued to support terrorism despite growing international pressure on it.

"India lives in the most difficult neighbourhood in the world as terrorism infrastructure in Pakistan has flourished as an instrument of state policy," Chidambaram said in his opening remarks.

Terming terrorism as the "principal challenge" for both the countries, the Home Minister advocated the need to deal with a range of other challenges, including counterfeit currency, narcotics trafficking, threats and risks in cyber space.

As the day-long talks coincided with the ongoing trial in Chicago of November 2008 terror strike accused Tahawwur Rana, the two sides are also expected to exchange views on ‘capacity building and mutual assistance in investigations including in the Mumbai attack’.

During the trial in Chicago, Pakistani-born American terrorist David Coleman Headley linked Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to the Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist group that planned and executed the attack which left 166 people, including six Americans, dead.

(With PTI inputs)