India has right to protect its territorial integrity: Pranab
Nidhi Razdan
Tuesday, December 02, 2008 4:42 PM (New Delhi)

In an exclusive interview to NDTV External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has not ruled out the option of military strikes against terror camps in Pakistan.

Mukherjee said that every country has the right to protect its territorial integrity and take appropriate action when necessary. He also said that it has become difficult to continue the peace process with Pakistan in this atmosphere.

NDTV: Are we thinking about the military option at all?
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee: As and when it takes place, people will come to know, it's not publicized.

NDTV: So, you are not ruling it out?
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee: I am not making any comment on the military option, what I am saying is that every sovereign country has the right to protect its territorial integrity and take appropriate action and when it feels necessary to take that appropriate action.

NDTV:Has the peace process suffered a big setback?
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee: Yes it has vitiated the atmosphere. There was also the Kabul attack and now Mumbai attack; naturally the atmosphere is vitiated. While we have no intention of not carrying on with the peace process, but definitely when peoples' sentiments are affected and it creates an atmosphere not to carry on business as usual, it has some impact. These incidents and if these are not adequately addressed by the other side, create an atmosphere that's difficult to carry on normal business including the peace process.

India asks Pak to hand over fugitives

PTI adds: Sending a tough message, Mukherjee said India has demanded the handing over of LeT chief Hafiz Mohammad and other fugitives in Pakistan in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks and would await Islamabad's response.

"Now, we have in our demarche asked (for) the arrest and handover of those persons who are settled in Pakistan and who are fugitives of Indian law," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on the sidelines of a function to inaugurate the India-Arab Forum.

Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik was summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs yesterday and issued a demarche (protest note).

"...there are lists of about 20 persons. (These) lists are sometimes altered and this exercise is going on and we have renewed it in our demarche," Mukherjee said adding India "will await" Pakistan's response.

India has handed over to Pakistan a list of 20 terrorists, including Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammad and Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar besides Dawood Ibrahim, who are based in that country and are suspected to be behind terror attacks in India.

Investigations into the three-day Mumbai terror strikes that left 183 dead have shown that the plan to carry out the attacks was hatched in Pakistan, suspectedly by Lashkar-e-Toiba and the perpetrators of the ghastly act came from Karachi by ships and boats.

Asked about US President-elect Barack Obama's suggestion that India has a "right to protect" itself, Mukherjee said "what will be done, time will show and you will come to know."

Islamabad has been in a denial mode but India says it has hard evidence to show Pakistani link.

New Delhi's outrage was voiced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who said India will not tolerate use of territories by its neighbours for launching attacks in this country and that there will be a "cost" to it.

The US is also building pressure on Pakistan, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who arrives here tomorrow for talks with Indian leaders, saying Islamabad must "follow evidence wherever it leads" and lend "absolute" and "transparent" cooperation to New Delhi in the probe into the Mumbai terror strikes.

On the solidarity shown by the world leaders, including the US President-elect, with India in the aftermath of the Mumbai incidents, the External Affairs Minister said: "We appreciate the responses which we have received from all over the world, including Obama."

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