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The Rediff Special/ Suman Guha Mozumder in New York

Indian-American task force to push US to act on Pak terror

January 09, 2009

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A number of Indian-American organizations joined hands last week to form a national anti-terrorism task force that seeks to impress upon United States President-elect Barack Obama [Images] and the US Congress of the need to make changes to US policy towards Pakistan.

Its members plan to meet the Obama-Biden transition team shortly and with US Senators and Representatives at a January 27 conference in Washington, DC.

"The task force members feel it is high time for the US to follow up on its words with specific actions that will undermine the terrorist networks in Pakistan, and to this end the task force is developing a detailed position paper with facts and figures supporting its recommendations," Suresh Kumar, CEO, NexAge Technologies USA Inc, told Rediff India Abroad.

Participants in the Indian American Task Force include leaders of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association; Association of Indians in America; Indian American Friendship Forum; Indian American Forum for Political Education; Indian American Political Action Committee; US India Political Action Committee and the National federation of Indian American Associations.

The coalition said while the US understandably needs Pakistan's support in its war against the Taliban [Images] and Al Qaeda [Images], turning a blind eye to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai or merely issuing strong statements will only ensure that such terrorist activities continue.

"US strategy towards Pakistan needs to undergo a major change as it has not been successful in meeting its goals in either containing or eliminating terrorism. The current Pakistani government is very fragile and not in control of various terrorist organisations, and therefore not able to deliver on its implied or explicit promises to America," Ravi Sakhuja, national president, IAFPE said.

In its briefing paper, the IATF said, 'In the post Cold War era the US, starting with President Bill Clinton [Images], has significantly strengthened its ties with India. The recent passage of the US India nuclear deal has taken the relationships to new heights. We hope that such strategic relationships between the two countries will continue to grow stronger under the Obama administration.'

Agreeing that the escalation of tension between India and Pakistan, including any military action, could have serious consequences for America's continued war on terror on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the IATF said, 'The US must realise that the current steps by Pakistan in terms of closing down terrorist camps and arresting some individuals, many of whom have already been released, is nothing but a smoke screen.'

'Following the attacks on India's Parliament in 2002, the same terrorist camps were shut down. However, after some time the same terrorist camps were opened elsewhere under new names, and all those arrested at that time were quietly released. The same thing is bound to happen this time unless the US responds with more than just strong words.'

The task force asked the White House and Congress to work in concert, through legislation or executive orders, to subject all economic and military aid to Pakistan to the verifiable evidence that Islamabad [Images] has dismantled all terrorist camps existing on its soil with immediate effect.

It further said Pakistan needed to be held to a definite schedule on the arrest and prosecution of the heads of terrorist organisations on its soil, and to sending those responsible for the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai to India for prosecution.

The IATF said Washington should focus US military aid to Pakistan to resources needed to fight terrorism, and not to enhance Pakistan's capability to fight against India.

"President-elect Barack Obama has the privilege of reviewing the entire situation with a fresh perspective, especially in view of the Mumbai terror attacks [Images] and especially noticing that nearly all terrorist attacks in the world have originated from Pakistan. I fully expect the Obama administration to do what is in the best interests of the US and not be burdened by the baggage of the past," Sakhuja said.

Kumar said the IATF's overall goal is to provide the US government and Congress with inputs, facts and perspectives from the 2.5 million strong Indian-American community about terrorism as it relates to India.

"The short term goal is to retain the focus of the US Congress, the government and the transition team and follow through on the Mumbai terror attacks. In the long run we hope to be an important voice of the Indian-American community and work with Congress and the US government on all issues related to the elimination of terrorism in all its forms from India, the US and other parts of the world," Kumar said.

The group was born following a "meeting of minds" of Indian-American leaders who have been active in community-related issues for years.

"The initial exchange was through email by people sharing thoughts following the attacks on Mumbai. The joint coordinators of the task force, community leaders Ram Narayan and Mukesh Advani [Images], took the initiative to launch the task force and then members nominated others who we thought could provide the leadership needed to make it effective," Kumar said.

NFIA Chair Rajen Anand said the January 27 meeting was aimed at impressing on lawmakers the need to take action to prevent any further terrorist attacks on India. "In the evening there will be a reception for some key members of the House and the Senate. Members of the White House and State Department are being invited. A group of us are also planning to meet with the Obama transition team before the January 27 meeting," Anand said.

Kumar said the participating organisations had come forward on their own, and that the IATF has appealed to others to come forward in what is a bipartisan effort. "Practically the entire Indian-American community has come together for this cause," he said, "as is shown by the decision of major organizations to actively participate in this effort. This is just unprecedented."


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