Following remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, India’s Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde reiterated on Wednesday New Delhi's insistence that Hafiz Saeed, the Pakistani militant leader and accused mastermind of the attacks, and other perpetrators be extradited to India to face justice there.
Answering a question from an Indian journalist on Tuesday during a virtual "Global Town Hall," Clinton said her country is committed to bringing all of the perpetrators of the attacks to justice.
"I think it is unfinished business that we are not in any way walking away from. I'm leaving office, but I can assure you and the Indian people this remains one of our very highest priorities,” she said in the online question-and-answer session.
The comment comes after a federal court in Chicago sentenced American citizen David Coleman Headley last week to 35 years in prison for his role in the massacre of 156 people by eleven armed militants linked to the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist organization. All but one of the men were killed during the four-day siege; India hanged the eleventh attacker, 25-year-old Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, in a prison courtyard in Pune in November.
Headley, 52, was found guilty of conspiring with the group by traveling to Mumbai and scouting for targets prior to the assault, but India considers his prison sentence light and has demanded he be extradited to face trial there, saying he deserved a harsher punishment. Wednesday’s comment by the Home minister indicates that India will continue to push on the issue.
Clinton is set to leave the State Department Feb. 1 and will be succeeded by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday.
Pointing out that Headley had undergone an intensive amount of investigation and interrogation by both Indian as well as American authorities, Clinton said that his sentencing represented the punishment he deserved. The U.S. claims Headley cooperated with authorities and provided valuable intelligence about the LeT, which led to a lighter sentence.
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Insisting that Washington had been pressing the Pakistani government to take stringent action against the militants holed-up inside Pakistan, including Saeed. In April 2012, the U.S. put a $10 million bounty on the head of the presumed leader of the LeT. Saeed has been arrested and released three times in Pakistan.
Welcoming the improvements in India-Pakistan bilateral ties, Clinton said the efforts by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari had improved bilateral communication, business, trade and commerce and helped to create a “more receptive environment for dealing with these serious threats.”
“I believe going after terrorism is an obligation of every country everywhere, every sensible person. We can have disagreements, but they cannot be in any way using violence or condoning the use of violence," Clinton said, reiterating her commitment against terrorism.