By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Diplomatic impact of Mumbai terror strikes has not been confined to the West, particularly the United States. The last week was marked by the issue being discussed between India and visiting dignitaries from countries closer, geographically than the US. The Mumbai-issue dominated the press conference addressed by Iranâ€™s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhoundzadeh before concluding his India visit (December 19). During his visit, Akhoundzadeh held discussions with Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon. India and Iran discussed tragic Mumbai incident, deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Iraq,â€ Akhoundzadeh said at the press conference.
The two sides also discussed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project as Mumbai-attacks have raised Indiaâ€™s concern about its security. â€œWe have expressed readiness on part of our country to take forward the project, the sooner the better,â€ Akhoundzadeh said. â€œWe are expecting a response from India and Pakistan,â€ he added. On whether Mumbai-case has had any negative impact on it, Akhoundzadeh said: â€œThis century is a century of Asia, with Asian capacities flourishing. The growing need for Asia is to meet increasing demand for gas.â€ â€œWe feel that there are attempts from foreign powers, who do not welcome this project, to torpedo it. We feel leadership in Asia should be vigilant to look into their future demands,â€ he said. Referring to Mumbai case, he said that terrorism â€œshould not deter the will and determinationâ€ of Asian countries to move ahead with project.
On Iranâ€™s stand regarding Pakistan-based terrorists being responsible for Mumbai-case, Akhoundzadeh said: â€œIt does not matter from which place they are. They should be dealt with iron hand.â€ â€œTerrorists have no religion, no patriotic value. India and Pakistan have proved in past few years that they have maturity to deal with terrorist cases. We should be coolheaded. Whoever is behind it (Mumbai-case), the leadership of both countries should not fall victims to designs of terrorists,â€ Akhoundzadeh said. He pointed to leaders in both countries having fallen victims to terrorists, including Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto.
â€œNo genuine Islamic individual would dare to endorse terrorism,â€ Akhoundzadeh said when asked on Islamic Statesâ€™ stand on terrorism.
To a question on whether Indo-Pak dispute on Kashmir was root cause of terrorism in the region, Akhoundzadeh said that â€œgrowing sense of insecurityâ€ in Afghanistan could be linked with it. With those (United States) who had â€œpromised stability and developmentâ€ to Afghanistan having failed, the State â€œcould be the breeding ground for more terrorism,â€ he said.
The brief visit of Omanâ€™s Foreign Minister Yusuf Bin Alawai Bin Abdullah was the first from a Gulf country since the Mumbai attack. During his meeting with Mukherjee, Abdullah â€œexpressed deep condolences at the loss of life in the Mumbai terror attacks and solidarity with the people of Indiaâ€ (December 16). Abdullah noted: â€œThere can be no excuse for not dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism across the Indian border.â€ Abdullahâ€™s visit followed the landmark visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Oman last month. Mukherjee expressed appreciation on the telephonic call made by Abdullah soon after the Mumbai attack. He also apprised Abdullah of the results of ongoing investigations, which clearly point to â€œcomplicity of elements in Pakistan.â€
During the two-day meeting of India-Russia Joint Working Group on Combating International terrorism, the Russian side â€œstrongly condemnedâ€ the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and â€œreiterated their solidarity to the government and people of India.â€ â€œBoth sides underlined their shared concerns on the growing threat of cross-border terrorism and reaffirmed their commitment for strengthening bilateral cooperation against terrorism,â€ according to a joint statement released on the two-day meeting (December 17).
Vivek Katju, Special Secretary in External Affairs Ministry led the Indian side, while the Russian delegation was led by Anatoly Safonov, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cooperation in the Fight against Terrorism and Transnational Crime.
During the talks held in â€œan atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust,â€ India and Russia described their â€œcooperation in combating terrorismâ€ as an important part of their â€œstrategic partnership.â€ Giving stress to importance of â€œinternational efforts to prevent and fight terrorismâ€ including the United Nationsâ€™ Global Counter Terrorism Strategy and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, they â€œunderlined the need for expeditious conclusion of negotiations leading to finalization of India sponsored Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) at the UN General Assembly.â€
India and Russia pointed out to â€œcurbing financing of terrorismâ€ as a â€œkey component of counter terrorism strategy.â€ They also expressed concern at spread of narcotics in the region, which â€œdirectly threatens the security of both countries.â€ â€œThey agreed on the need to further consolidate bilateral efforts for sharing information and expanding cooperation against drug-trafficking.â€ They noted the â€œgrowing threat of use of cyber-space by terrorists in their activities and the need to cooperate in this field,â€ according to the joint statement. They also agreed to â€œexpand the exchange of information, experience and cooperation in the means of countering terrorism.â€
The Mumbai-case was also raised during talks between Albaniaâ€™s Foreign Minister Lulzim Basha and his Indian counterpart Mukherjee (December 19). Basha was the first foreign minister from Albania to visit India (December 17-20). Albania, Basha conveyed, fully shared Indiaâ€™s sense of outrage at the Mumbai attacks and considered terrorism as a common challenge for the international community.