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India a sponge protecting US: Expert tells Senate

Lalit K Jha in Washington | January 29, 2009 13:33 IST
Last Updated: January 29, 2009 19:12 IST

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India has become the "sponge" that was protecting the United States and the West from the terror campaign of Lashkar-e-Tayiba [Images] and is absorbing most of the blows unleashed by terrorist groups in Pakistan, the US Senate was told.


LeT, which has been blamed for the Mumbai [Images] attacks, remains a terrorist organisation of genuinely global reach and represents a threat to regional and global security, second only to Osama bin Laden's [Images] al Qaeda, according to strategic expert and an influential policy advisor Ashley J Tellis.


Tellis, a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, made these remarks while testifying before the Senate committee on homeland security and governmental affairs on Wednesday on the November 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai and their consequences for the US.


"India has unfortunately become the sponge that protects us all. India's very proximity to Pakistan, which has developed into the epicenter of global terrorism during the last 30 years, has resulted in New Delhi [Images] absorbing most of the blows unleashed by those terrorist groups that treat it as a common enemy along with Israel, the United States, and the West more generally," he said.


Tellis said the Barack Obama [Images] administration should keep Pakistan's feet to the fire and ensure that Islamabad [Images] makes good on its promises to take on terrorist groups.


Washington should also demand more of Islamabad precisely because the LeT threatens to become a significant global terrorist threat, he said, adding, the US should insist that Islamabad roll up and eliminate the entire LeT infrastructure of terrorism that currently exists inside of Pakistan.


Tellis also termed India's response to the Mumbai attack as inadequate and suggested that New Delhi should set up a body on the lines of America's national counter-terrorism centre and take US help.


Tellis said since the launch of the global war on terror post 9/11, Inter-Services Intelligence's assistance to LeT has become more recessed but it has by no means ended, even though the organisation was formally banned by then Pakistans president Pervez Musharraf [Images] on January 12, 2002.


Throwing light on LeT's links with Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence, Tellis said the terror group has received strong financial, material, and operational support from Pakistan's powerful spy agency -- including from its field stations in Nepal, Sri Lanka [Images], and Bangladesh -- because of the growing conviction within the Pakistan military that the war against India could never be won if the hostilities were to be confined only to Jammu and Kashmir [Images] issue .


While India has occupied the lion's share of LeT attention in recent years, he said the organisation has not by any means restricted itself to keeping only India in its sights, he said.


LeT was from the very beginning a preferred ward of the ISI, enjoying all the protection offered by the Pakistani state, he added. Even when Pakistan, under considerable US pressure, formally banned LeT as a terrorist organization in 2002, the LeT leadership remained impregnable and impervious to all international political pressure, Tellis said.


Tellis said it would be a gross error to treat the terrorism facing India, including the terrible recent atrocities as simply a problem for New Delhi alone.


In a very real sense, the outrage in Mumbai was fundamentally a species of global terrorism not merely because the assailants happened to believe in an obscurantist brand of Islam but, more importantly, because killing Indians turned out to be simply interchangeable with killing citizens of some 15 different nationalities for no apparent reason whatsoever, he added.

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