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26/11: 'Will not give Pakistan a free pass'

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
February 05, 2009 09:40 IST
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An influential American Senator has said that in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, the most important bond between the United States and India is their 'unity in the face of extremism'.

Republican Senator George V Voinovich, a ranking member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also lauded India's restraint vis-à-vis taking action against Pakistan.

But he cautioned that this should not mean that Pakistan has been 'given a free pass', and called on the international community to pressure Islamabad to bring the perpetrators of this carnage to justice and shut down the terror camps on its territory.

Voinovic had co-sponsored the Senate Resolution in December that condemned the Mumbai terror attacks and strongly urged the Pakistani government to root out all extremist groups operating on its territory.

Voinovic made these observations while keynoting the Republican Day dinner hosted by the Cleveland Federation of Indian Community organisations. He told the gathering that he was aware that many Indian Americans "are still saddened and shocked by the horrific terror attacks that took more than 170 innocent lives two months ago in Mumbai."

In his speech, which was made available to, Voinovich said the US Congress' thoughts and prayers were still "with all the people and families that have been affected as they endure indescribable pain."

"This tragedy reminds us just how precious all life is. And it reminds us all, as Americans, just how important it is to stand by our friends in times of need," he said.

Voinovich said, "As the Mumbai attacks made painfully clear, perhaps our most important common bond today is our unity in the face of extremism."

He recalled that following 9/11, "India was one of the first countries to offer assistance to the United States. Its people and government expressed genuine sympathy for our loss, while they mourned losses of their own at the World Trade Center."

 "Now it is America which must stand by India during its time of crisis," he declared.

 "I was so proud to sponsor a resolution in the Senate to affirm that the people of the United States stand in unison with the people of India, send our deepest condolences, and urge renewed effort to root out extremist groups in Pakistan and in any other countries," he said.

He recalled how he had "reached out personally to Ambassador Ronen Sen the day after the resolution was passed to express my own condolences, and to discuss how our nations can go forward in the fight against extremism."

The lawmaker said that "although many nations did not think themselves a target for Islamic extremists to carry out the type of violence we saw here on 9/11, the Mumbai attacks made it clear that extremists will strike at people of any religion, race or nation to further their cause."

He stressed that "during these times of violence and uncertainty, we must be careful not to redirect our anger and frustration against each another, but encourage greater respect and understanding in our local communities and throughout the world."

In this regard, he lauded "the restraint India has shown in the wake of this attack in its dealings with Pakistan," and argued that "rash action against Pakistan would have greatly destabilised relations between the two nuclear powers and played into the terrorists' plans."

But he was quick to add, "That does not mean we give Pakistan a free pass. There is much the global community must do together to press Pakistan to root out extremist groups operating within its borders, and aggressively investigate Pakistani connections to the attacks."

He pledged to the Indian American community that "you can count on me to work in the Senate to do everything in my power to make sure that Pakistan lives up to its responsibilities."

Voinovich, who said he would soon serve on the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and Related Programs, indicated that as a member of the Subcommittee "I would be able to have something to say about where we allocate our resources."

"We must remember the tragic events in Mumbai, and work to make sure they never happen again," he said.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC