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'India has the right to go after terrorists'

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | December 02, 2008 01:48 IST

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President-elect Barack Obama [Images] has said that India has the sovereign right to go after the terrorists, who perpetrated the deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

At a press conference that followed his rolling out his national security team, Obama, when reminded that during the campaign he had said if there was irrefutable evidence of Al Qaeda [Images] leaders and training camps in Pakistan he would go after them with or without Pakistan's permission and asked if India has that same right, replied, "Sovereign nations obviously have a right to protect themselves."

"Beyond that, I don't want to comment on the specific situation that is taking place in South Asia right now," he said, adding, "I think it is important for us to let the investigators do their job in making a determination in terms of who was responsible for carrying out these heinous acts."

Obama said, however, that: "I can tell you, my Administration will remain steadfast in support of India's efforts to catch the perpetrators of this terrible act and bring them to justice, and I will expect that the world community will feel the same way."

Obama in declaring that every sovereign state has a right to protect itself and hence condoning India's right to go after the terrorists, was more direct than in his earlier answer to the first question at the press conference when he was asked if India would be justified in going after the terrorists responsible for the Mumbai attack, which New Delhi [Images] has said were linked to Pakistan.

He was more circumspect when he said that, "First of all, I think it's important to reiterate that our condolences, our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of India, the families that have been affected and obviously we are heartbroken at the deaths of the six Americans that were caught up in this tragedy."

Obama said, "I have spoken to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and expressed these concerns to him; an investigation is taking place."

"I was briefed by Secretary (Condoleezza) Rice throughout the weekend, (and) she's on her way to the region. We've sent FBI to help on the investigation and this is one of those times, where I have to reiterate -- there's one President at a time."

Obama said, "We are going to be engaged in some very delicate diplomacy in the next several days and weeks, (and) so I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment."

"But, what I can say unequivocally is that both myself and the team that stands besides me, are absolutely committed to eliminating the threat of terrorism and that is true wherever it is found," he said.

"We cannot have -- we cannot tolerate -- a world in which innocents are being killed by extremists based on twisted ideologies, and we are going to have to bring the full force of our power, not only military, but also diplomatic, economic, and political to deal with these threats, not only to keep America safe, but also to ensure that peace and prosperity can exist around the world."

Obama said, he would be "monitoring the situation closely. Thus far, I think the Administration has done what's needed in trying to get the details of the situation and my expectation is that President (Asif) Zardari of Pakistan -- who has already said that he will fully cooperate with the investigation -- will follow through with that commitment."

In his opening remarks in introducing his security team, Obama said that "as we have learned so painfully on 9/11, terror cannot be contained by borders, nor safety provided by oceans alone."

"Last week," he recalled, "we were reminded of this threat once again when terrorists took the lives of six Americans among nearly 200 victims in Mumbai."

He asserted that "in the world we seek, there is no place for those who kill innocent civilians to advance hateful extremism."

"This weekend, I told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Americans stand with the people of India in this dark time. And, I am confident that India's great democracy is more resilient than killers who would tear it down."

Obama said that he was "confident that this is the team we need to make a new beginning for American national security," and noted that "this morning, we met to discuss the situation in Mumbai and some of the challenges that we face in the months and years ahead."

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