NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a three-day visit to India, accused Pakistan on Monday of not doing enough to bring key terror suspects to justice and hinted that Al Qaeda fugitive Ayman al Zawahiri could be hiding in Pakistan.
Ms Clinton used a public appearance in Kolkata, where she arrived for an overnight stay on Sunday, to also press India to cut its dependence on oil imports from Iran before the United States was compelled to impose penalties on New Delhi.
Even as Ms Clinton spoke, a 56-member delegation from Tehran was in New Delhi to push bilateral trade ties. Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni, who hosted Ms Clinton in Dhaka on Saturday, was in New Delhi on Monday in an indication that quiet talks were possibly underway to resolve a river water sharing dispute with India.
India, which imports 80 per cent of its crude oil and relies on Tehran for 12pc of those imports, has said it needed to continue to buy Iranian oil to meet its domestic requirements. Though India has publicly not said it was aiming to cut back on oil imports from Iran, the country’s top oil importers have been pushed to reduce Iranian oil imports by 15-20 per cent.
In comments to NDTV in Kolkata before her departure for New Delhi on Monday, Ms Clinton reaffirmed Washington’s continued mission to “disable” Al Qaeda.“There are several significant leaders still on the run. (Ayman al) Zawahiri who inherited the leadership from (Osama) bin Laden is somewhere, we believe, in Pakistan. So we are intent upon going after those who are trying to keep Al Qaeda operational and inspirational,” Ms Clinton said in the interview.
Analysts were surprised by the choice of the venue to make her comments about Pakistan at a time when Islamabad’s ties with New Delhi were on the mend, with a gamut of issues, including terrorism under discussion at the highest levels.
Ms Clinton invoked India’s difficulties with cross-border terrorism to slam Pakistan.
“The network of terrorism which India knows all too well from your own experiences is more broad-based than any one group. I think you have to do three things - you have to have the very best possible intelligence; law enforcement; judicial defence response - so that you can protect your people,” she advised the Indians.
She recalled that she recently authorised 10 million dollar award for “one of the people we believe was the mastermind of the attack in Mumbai…that killed 166 people including six Americans and we want everybody associated with this brought to justice”.
It could take some time before justice is done, “but we are going to be standing with you to make that happen and that thirdly though you have to change the way the people think. India and US are the greatest rebukes to religious extremism.
Because you have people of every religion like we do and that drives the extremist crazy. They hate tolerance. They hate respect for people’s religious beliefs. They want all to believe what they believe and we stand against that.”
Ms Clinton was asked to clarify the issue of the “bounty” on Mr Hafiz Saeed, which turned out to be reward for the information that would lead to his arrest or conviction.
“Indians say we have handed over dossiers after dossiers and all the information that is needed is there is in those dossiers.
Are you saying there isn’t enough information?” Ms Clinton was asked.
She said: “No, but we are saying that this is the way our system works. I mean that’s what these rewards are; they are rewards for information that can lead to bringing somebody to justice. We are well aware that there have not yet been steps taken by the Pakistani government to do what both India and US have repeatedly requested that they do. And we are going to keep pushing that point. So it’s a way of raising the visibility and pointing out to those who are associated with them that there is a cost for that and it’s a cost that they themselves will have to pay going forward.”