The US joined India on Friday to call for “effective steps by all countries” to eliminate safe havens and infrastructure for terrorism, ranking the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the same league as the al Qaeda.
“I think in my judgment, the LeT ranks right up there with the al Qaeda and related groups as terrorist organisations, one that seeks to harm people and take innocent lives,” US secretary of homeland security Janet Napolitano said on Friday at the end of the first Indo-US Homeland Security dialogue.
Napolitano’s assertion comes in the backdrop of Chicago trial of Pakistan-born Canadian Tahawwur Rana, a co-accused in the 26/11 case, in which Lashkar operative David Coleman Headley is the star witness. He has exposed the close links between the Pakistan spy agency ISI and the Lashkar.
Home minister P Chidambaram opened the dialogue earlier in the day, saying Pakistan, the global epicenter of terrorism, had become a “fragile” state, with terror groups nurtured for long as an instrument of state policy joining hands against the state.
With the dialogue coinciding with US secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Islamabad visit, Napolitano avoided any reference to the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan at a presser later in the evening.
In a joint statement, India and the US pledged to defeat the forces of terrorism. Without naming Pakistan, the statement also “called for effective steps by all countries to eliminate safe havens and infrastructure for terrorism”.
To a question on the US approach towards the Lashkar, Napolitano, ranked the outfit in the same bracket as the al Qaeda.
“Our perspective, the US perspective, is LeT is very very, I do not want to say important as that gives it too much credibility, but an organisation that is of the same ranking as the al Qaeda-related groups,” she said, with Chidambaram by her side at the press conference.
The home minister wrapped up the dialogue with decisions to step up counter-terror, intelligence sharing and cyber-security cooperation between the two sides.
Opening the talks, Chidambaram had said the cooperation would have to involve all aspects, including the ability to anticipate threats, taking preventive or pre-emptive measures and an effective and quick response to incidents.