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'After terror attack, we should say, all of us are Indians'

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | December 01, 2008 14:04 IST

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Karl 'Rick' Inderfurth, foreign policy advisor on South Asia for United States President-elect Barack Obama's [Images] campaign, who is expected to play an influential role in the Obama administration's  policy on the subcontinent, says, "It was said immediately after the 9/11 attack that 'we are all Americans'. Now, in the wake of the Mumbai tragedy, it is right for all of us to say 'we are all Indians.'"

Inderfurth, former assistant secretary of state for south Asian affairs in the Clinton administration, said the terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed scores of innocent civilians and injured several hundred more "is a great tragedy -- especially for India -- but also for all freedom loving people around the world."

He told that it is now imperative that "we must join forces -- as never before -- to meet and defeat the threats posed by terrorists and extremists around the world."

Inderfurth said, "We began the Joint Working Group on Counter-terrorism in the Clinton administration, which we continued during the Bush administration, and I am very hopeful that it will be one of the areas of enhanced cooperation that will unfold in the Obama administration."

He said the Obama transition team is "watching this carefully and staying briefed and informed because the nature of this attack is of such magnitude and sophistication that it is sending a signal -- and even though right now the incoming administration and rightly so, has been focused on the economic and financial crisis facing America and the world -- what has happened in Mumbai is a tragic and very stark reminder that there is another grave challenge facing us all."

"And, that is," he said, "the threat from terrorists and extremists who will continue to pursue their goals until we and the international community join together to meet and defeat this threat."

Inderfurth acknowledged that combating the scourge of terrorism as witnessed in Mumbai would indeed be 'a tremendous challenge' for the Obama administration "and it is one that I have no doubt that the national security team that is being put together by the President-elect" which will be announced later today (December 1) "will have the quality and the experience that will be able to hit the ground running on January 20."

He added, "Moving forward on this very long-standing struggle that we will have with terrorist groups around the world," would be on a par with the priority of taking on the financial crisis in the country and predicted that the Obama administration would be on top of this from day one and would hit the ground running.

Inderfurth said, "I have been terribly impressed by the quality and the depth of those who have been chosen for these positions and we will see a national security team that I have every reason to believe will rival the economic team in terms of the kind of experience and expertise to meet challenges like this (the terrorist attacks in Mumbai)."

"This is going to be an A team and hopefully it will prove to be one that is not only an A team in terms of experience and qualifications, but also that will be able to work together."

He said, "That is where the Bush team fell apart. They were seen as the Dream Team for national security -- so much experience -- and yet, they did not work well together at all. They were dysfunctional because of the (internal) battles taking place. So, it's important not only to have the right people, but the people that can work together well."

President-elect Obama will announce today that he has chosen Senator Hillary Clinton [Images] �his rival in the Democratic presidential primary -- as his Secretary of State, and Retired General Jim Jones [Images] -- the former Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Orgainisation -- as National Security Adviser.

Robert Gates will be staying on as Secretary of Defense, Michael Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and it's expected that Retired Admiral Dennis Blair will be the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and while he may not be named today, he might be named at a later date. One of Obama's key foreign policy advisers during the campaign, Susan Rice, will be named as the US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Inderfurth said the terrorists targeting American and British citizens was clearly "an attempt to shake the confidence of these two countries which have been building a very important strategic relationship with India, including on the financial and economic side."

The attack on Mumbai -- the financial capital on India -- he said, was a no-brainer in that it was "a strategically chosen site to spread the magnitude of that threat around."

"This is where so many of the investors and those that are involved in trade and commerce congregate. And, what they want to do is to shake the confidence of countries and investors doing business in India," he said.

Inderfurth said the best way to answer these terrorists is "for the next plane-load of visitors coming to India to be filled with these same people -- those investors -- those people who want to trade in and visit Mumbai and not to let this attack deter them."

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