India says there are signs of a foreign link to New Delhi bombings
NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claimed Monday there was a foreign link to bombings that bloodied two New Delhi markets, a veiled reference to Pakistan-based militants. But both nations sought to preserve the fragile detente that grew out of the recent quake disaster.Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf condemned terrorism and pledged full cooperation in the bombing investigation, which came three weeks after an earthquake ravaged the disputed Himalayan region and helped draw the two nuclear rivals closer.During a phone call Monday, Singh reminded Musharraf of “Pakistan’s commitment to ending cross-border terrorism, and said that he continued to be disturbed and dismayed at indications of external linkages” to the attack, said Sanjaya Baru, a spokesman for the Indian leader.But Baru refused to provide any details about the purported foreign links to the bombs that killed 59 people and wounded 210 – or to single out Pakistan by name.Accusations of Pakistani involvement in a previous terrorist attack in New Delhi, the 2001 assault on India’s parliament, put the neighbors on the brink of their fourth war in 60 years.But they pulled back then, and the two sides appear intent on maintaining the momentum toward peace gained in their cooperation since the Oct. 8 quake, which killed an estimated 80,000 people. Most of the deaths were in Pakistan’s portion of Kashmir, but India’s part also suffered.The latest advance came just hours after the New Delhi bombings, when the two governments reached an unprecedented agreement to speed quake relief by partially opening the heavily militarized frontier that has divided Kashmir for decades.Pakistani officials were quick to condemn the bombings over the weekend, and Musharraf on Monday called the bloodshed in New Delhi “a dastardly terrorist attack.” He told reporters his country would fully cooperate in any investigation.”Pakistan stands with India on this act of terrorism which has been perpetrated in New Delhi,” he said.Musharraf also urged India’s leaders to consider a wider opening of Kashmir, suggesting the demilitarization of the Himalayan territory that has been the reason for two of the wars between the two nations.”I think this is an opportunity which we should utilize for a solution, for moving ahead toward a solution,” he said. “We should think of demilitarizing.”That seems unlikely, given the 16-year-long insurgency that Islamic separatists have waged in Indian Kashmir.Even Musharraf acknowledged the two sides deeply mistrust each other.”We doubt you, you doubt us,” he said. “Our hearts are somehow closed and our good intentions are somehow obstructed.”The U.N. Security Council on Monday offered its condolences to the victims of “these heinous acts of terrorism” and their families. The council said the international community must “cooperate actively” to bring to justice the perpetrators and anyone who played a supporting role in the attacks.U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was “particularly shocked that this latest terrorist outrage” took place on the eve of Diwali, the festival of lights.A little-known Kashmiri group, Islamic Inquilab Mahaz, claimed Sunday that it was behind the New Delhi bombings, and Indian police said the group was linked to Kashmiri militants based in Pakistan.But on Monday, a major Kashmiri militant group seemed to be following Musharraf’s lead, denying that it or other insurgents had any role in the attacks.”It is a big crime to carry out any operation in civilian areas,” said Syed Salahuddin, chief of Hezb-ul Mujahedeen, the largest militant group in Kashmir. He spoke from Pakistan.Still, the bombings seemed to confirm many Indians’ suspicions about Pakistan.A former Indian ambassador to Pakistan, G. Parthasarthy, said that “there is more than an element of hypocrisy” in Musharraf’s comments.”Messages of condolence don’t impress me while terror infrastructure remains in place,” he said. The Times of India newspaper urged officials to “tenaciously work at building a case that proves that Pakistani soil still remains the springboard of terror attacks and go international with it.”The bombings struck during New Delhi’s biggest shopping weekend of the year, ahead of the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, which begins Tuesday.Crowds were noticeably thin in the capital’s markets Monday. At the Sarojini Nagar market, where 43 people were killed, most people came to see the wreckage, not shop.”Normally on this day, the day before Diwali, you won’t get any place in my shop to stand,” said Harsh Goplan, who runs a clothing store. “The fact that I am here taking to you, talking to other journalists says it all – that there are no customers today.”A security official involved in the investigation said police had hit “a blank wall” in trying to track down those tied to the attacks, saying early leads had not panned out.A tip about an alleged al-Qaida car bombing expert was a false alarm, said the official, who agreed to discuss the case only if not quoted by name since he was not authorized to speak to the press.That assessment contrasted with official comments Sunday. Police said then that they were questioning “numerous” people, and Home Minister Shivraj Patil told journalists “the investigation is going well.”—Associated Press writers Sadaqat Jan in Islamabad and Paul Haven in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and Neelesh Misra and Rajesh Mahapatra in New Delhi contributed to this report.