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Briefing by Foreign Secretary Mr. Shivshankar Menon on Mumbai Terror Attack

New Delhi
January 5, 2009

Foreign Secretary: Thank you for coming.

As you know, earlier today we handed over to the Pakistani High Commissioner here in New Delhi, and in Islamabad to the Pakistani Foreign Secretary, material that has emerged from the investigation into the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. This material includes material from the interrogation of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani national who is in our police custody; details of the terrorists’ communication links with elements in Pakistan during the Mumbai attack; details of the recovered weapons and equipment and of other articles that we have recovered from the boat, from the sites where the attack took place; and details of data that we have recovered from the GPS instrument and the satellite telephones that we have recovered. This material, as you know, is linked to elements in Pakistan.

We have told the Pakistani authorities that it is our expectation that as Pakistan is obliged to, under the various bilateral commitments which she has undertaken and the international commitments that she has, that Pakistan will investigate this material, follow the evidence wherever it may lead, and share the results with us and extend to us legal assistance so that we can bring the perpetrators to Indian justice. We have also said that we would hope that Pakistan would implement her various commitments not to permit terrorism in any manner from any territory under its control against India.

We have also today begun the process of briefing friendly governments. The External Affairs Minister has written a letter to his counterparts around the world along with a detailed brief on the events in Mumbai. We started the process of briefing friendly governments today in Delhi by briefing the representatives of countries who had lost their nationals in the Mumbai attacks, this afternoon at 3:30 in MEA. We will continue this process with other friendly governments tomorrow.

We have also the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Mr. He Yafei in Delhi at this moment for discussions on bilateral relations, on the preparations for the meeting of G20 leaders in London in April on the financial crisis. And naturally he briefed us on his discussions in Pakistan where he was the end of last month. And we also briefed him on the material that is with us that has emerged from our investigation.

I must make it clear that this is still an ongoing investigation and it is not as though this investigation is over. But we feel that we are at the point where it is clear that the crime might have been committed in India but the conspiracy behind the crime was in Pakistan, and hence our request to Pakistan to fulfill her commitments to us. It is also our feeling that terrorism of this sort is a threat to the entire international community. And this is why we are briefing our friends because it is really time that the world acted to eliminate this threat.

I will be very happy to answer any questions which you might have.

Question (Ms Sara Sidner, CNN): How long has this evidence been in the hands of Indian authorities? And is this the first time that Pakistan is getting hard evidence from India?

Foreign Secretary: As far as the Mumbai attack is concerned, this is evidence that we have developed since the attack began on the 26th of November. Bits and pieces of it have been developed over time. At that time itself we had mentioned to Pakistan that all the indications that we had were that the attack had come from Pakistan. The External Affairs Minister had spoken to his counterpart on the 28th (November), we had then made a demarche on the 1st (December). We had high level contacts as well. The Pakistani side had informed us that they were undertaking their own investigation, and that they would see what they found on their side. We have now shared with them some of the results of what we have discovered as a result of, as I said, an ongoing investigation. And we would hope that they would now follow these leads in Pakistan and see where they lead, and help us to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Question (Ms Sara Sidner, CNN): Is this the first time they have had evidence?

Foreign Secretary: We have given evidence in previous cases. For instance, after the attack on our Embassy in Kabul we held a special session of the Joint Anti Terror mechanism where we had given some evidence to Pakistan which suggested that there were elements in Pakistan who were involved in that attack. In several cases in the past we have shared evidence. But we are hoping that the previous pattern is not repeated in this case.

Question (Ms Sara Sidner, CNN): So, this is the first time since 26th November.

Foreign Secretary: I think you have to give somebody else a chance.

Question (Mr Javed Khan, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation): Mr. Menon, the evidence which you just mentioned, like Thuraya telephone calls and the GPS data, was there right with the Indian authorities in the beginning. Why India did not share it with Pakistan then?

Secondly, why has India not responded to Pakistan’s offer of a joint investigation into the Mumbai incident?

Foreign Secretary: I think we needed to be sure of what we had collected. We needed to go through the process of investigation. This is normal. I mean the Pakistan side was doing what they could on their side, we had to do what we did on our side. We have now shared what we have found with Pakistan. We would expect that Pakistan would do the same in return, and would share what they have.

You asked why we have not chosen to respond to the idea of a joint investigation. I think the law is quite clear. Jurisdiction rests with the country whose territory the crime is committed on. In this case it is a crime in India with a conspiracy in Pakistan. So, we will investigate in India; we expect Pakistan to investigate in Pakistan, and to render legal assistance to us, as she is obliged to under the various Conventions that exist. We have existing mechanisms. But so far as the history of attacks shows they have not been successful in preventing such attacks. So, I think it is naturally incumbent on us now to try and make sure that they work. And we hope to do so.

Question (Mr Simon Daniel, Reuters):Do you have solid evidence of the complicity of current or recently former members of the ISI in these attacks? And have you presented such evidence to Pakistan?

Foreign Secretary: We will follow the evidence wherever it leads. It is hard to believe that something of this scale that took so long in the preparation, and of this nature which amounts really to a commando attack, could occur without anybody anywhere in the establishment knowing that this was happening. And that actually beggars the imagination. Wherever the evidence leads we will follow it. But we are at this stage, as I said, in an ongoing investigation. We are not going to say yes or no, this is where the line ends. We cannot, because we still have to continue with this investigation, and most of it now has to be done in Pakistan.

Question (Mr Sanjay Majumder, BBC News): Mr. Menon, will you accept the results of any investigation conducted by Pakistan, or you are also asking for your own investigation teams? And since you are sharing this information with other governments, are you hoping that organizations such as the FBI will be given access based on the information you have provided and can, therefore, carry out some investigations on your behalf in Pakistan?

Foreign Secretary: You are asking me for several blank cheques, all at the same time. I cannot say whether I will accept something that I have not even seen, that has not even been offered, that I have not heard of! This is purely hypothetical. Every part of your question is hypothetical. So, please do not ask me to say, “Yes, I will accept; I will not accept”, what somebody may at some stage in the future offer or give me.

Question (Mr Sanjay Majumder, BBC News): But you said you asked for legal assistance. Can you amplify what kind of legal assistance? Would that mean access to your investigation teams?

Foreign Secretary: I think there is an accepted international legal obligation to render legal assistance. Under the SAARC convention it is quite clear what kind of legal assistance that is. It extends up to and it includes extradition.

Question (Mr Mathew Rosenberg, Associated Press): Pakistan has arrested several senior Lashkar leaders and cracked down on the charities that are linked to Lashkar. What other concrete steps does Pakistan need to take to satisfy India? And you mentioned bringing the perpetrators to Indian justice. Does that mean that India wants Pakistan to hand them over to be tried here in India?

Foreign Secretary: As of now I have your word that some people have been arrested. Nobody has told us this officially yet from Pakistan. Secondly, we have seen a similar thing when Lashkar was declared a terrorist organization after the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. And within three months they were back in business. Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which was declared a terrorist organization early in December, is still functioning as far as we can see. It is updating its website. Several of its organizations are still working. So, frankly, what we have seen so far does not impress us. Our goals are quite clear. What we want, as I said over and over again, is to bring the perpetrators to Indian justice, and to guarantee that there are no terrorist attacks from Pakistan on India. I think that is our goal.

Question (Mr Mathew Rosenberg, Associated Press): Does Indian justice mean being tried in India?

Foreign Secretary: Where else is there Indian justice?

Question (Ms Caren, ABC News): I just want a follow up. You said on 11/28 and the 1st of December that there was contact. Is that regarding evidence where you were able to say we have this evidence, and now this is the official evidence you are giving? So, there has been communication back and forth regarding what you found and what you burnt?

Foreign Secretary: Let us be careful in the words we use. We have given them material that has come out from our investigation.

Question (Ms Caren, ABC News): Along the way.

Foreign Secretary: Evidence is what a court accepts under the law. There is an Evidence Act and so on. So that is not a word I will use right now. What I would use right now is we have given them the material that has come out of the investigation that leads to Pakistan. All of the material we have given them is linked to Pakistan, elements in Pakistan. We expect them to investigate, look into it, share the results with us. And we will take it from there.

Question (Ms Parrull Malhotra, CNN-IBN): Do you see any value in Indian investigators questioning Pakistani suspects in Pakistan? Secondly, your thoughts on the FBI not getting access to suspects and places?

Foreign Secretary: Same question, same answer. Hypothetical. As of now, all we have seen is denial or confusing, contradictory statements. So, whether or not Indians go there, who else gives us what information, frankly, all that is hypothetical.

Question (Mr Rajiv Sharma, Free Press Journal): Though there is no extradition treaty between India and Pakistan, would you say that it is really not so much mundane because Pakistan is signatory to so many international conventions including some UN Resolutions which demand that any terrorist crime committed on the soil of a country, that obligates that country to extradite the suspects behind?

Secondly, does the evidence you have shared with Pakistan include the DNA samples of Kasab?

Foreign Secretary: Our understanding of the law is quite clear that under several international instruments, with or without a bilateral extradition treaty, in terrorist offences of this nature Pakistan is obliged to extradite the criminals. Otherwise, if we were told - as we have heard some people say - that Pakistan will never extradite anybody, then in effect we are saying that a Pakistani national who commits a crime in India and manages to get back to Pakistan has immunity. That is what it would amount to. Our understanding, for instance, is that under the SAARC Convention against Terrorism there is an obligation to extradite. In fact, that convention was written the way it is in order to avoid the fact of a bilateral demand, and it actually makes some multilateral obligation of it. And that is why that Convention was written the way it was. There are other international instruments as well, and we can mention a long list of them. But that is our understanding of the legal situation.

Question (Mr Rajiv Sharma, Free Press Journal): Have DNA samples of Kasab been given?

Foreign Secretary: No, we have not. But it is available; we have made it known to them that it is available.

Question (Mr Manish Chand, IANS): Sir, you just spoke about several mechanisms not working in the past. Now what about this Anti Terror Mechanism? In the light of what has happened, denials and the rest coming from Pakistan after Mumbai attacks, are we planning to continue with this Anti Terror Mechanism or is there a move to scrap it?

Also, when you talk about some people in the Pakistani establishment being in the know about the Mumbai attacks who are you referring to? Are we talking about the ISI here?

Foreign Secretary: As far as mechanisms are concerned, frankly, we are no longer interested in words, in mechanisms. We want actual action against the perpetrators. I think if we are to believe in sincerity and to see a way forward. I think what we expect now is action. We have gone through this process, for a long period, of showing evidence, of going through the various mechanisms. So, as far as we can see, the answer is not whether we scrap a mechanism, or add a new mechanism, or tinker with all this. This is form rather than substance. The substance of it is we would like action on the material that we have shared with Pakistan so that we can bring the perpetrators to justice. That is it.

Question (Mr Amit Barua, The Hindustan Times): Mr. Menon, since the 26/11 attacks, how would you assess the response of key players in the international community? There has been a lot of public support, but do you think that enough is being done by them to actually tell Pakistan that they need to be serious this time? We had a similar situation after the attack on our Embassy in Kabul when there was a lot of support and a lot of statements were made, some meetings took place. But do you believe that the international community is doing a sufficient amount to press Pakistan on this occasion?

Foreign Secretary: I think we have seen an unprecedented level of international support and the international response has been very heartening from our point of view. The international community responded immediately by declaring Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist organization. The kind of support and detailed assistance that we have received from several friendly countries is actually very heartening. Whether this is sufficient to induce Pakistan to do what she should, I do not know. That frankly is between them and Pakistan. That is not for me to say. I think we have made it clear what we expect. But the primary responsibility here - because the links lead back into Pakistan, they do not lead into other countries – is for Pakistan to act. We will continue to work with our friends in the international community to see that that happens to the extent it can.

Question (Mr Siddharth Varadarajan, The Hindu): Mr. Menon, does the material that you have handed over to Pakistan include the names of handlers or people at the other end of the telephone line who either are in or have recently been part of the ISI?

Secondly, are you not interested in access to people arrested either now or in the future? For example, you are saying it is a hypothetical question but, there is an announcement by the Pakistani Government that bank accounts have been frozen. Would you like to see for example details of some of these accounts, what have the recent transactions been? Have you made a request of this kind to the Pakistani authorities?

Foreign Secretary: It is quite clear that what we would like from the Pakistani authorities is all the information related to this crime. So, it is not a question of our making a specific request for one bit of information or another. We want to know how this conspiracy was formed; how it was carried out; how the training, the planning, the organization and the actual handling which went on right through the crime was done. That is what we would like to know. We would like to know it all. So, it is not just one part or the other. And that general request is available. That is why the general request for legal assistance. I think that is quite clear because it includes everything, including the results of investigation, but also goes beyond that all the way up to extradition, as I said. From what we have given them, frankly I cannot answer where those leads end or how far they go.

Question (Mr Siddharth Varadarajan, The Hindu): Have you named the people?

Foreign Secretary: We have named those people whom we identified on the basis of the interrogation or on other bases that we knew of.

Question (Mr Siddharth Varadarajan, The Hindu): Have you named the ISI or Lashkar?

Foreign Secretary: Frankly, the relationship that Lashkar-e-Toiba has enjoyed with the ISI in the past is a matter of history. It is a very fine line to draw between who is ISI, who is not ISI, and so on. So, I do not want to get into saying so and so is, so and so is not, so and so did, so and so worked for them, so and so did not work form them, so and so was supported, I do not want to get into that at all. As I said, we will follow the investigation wherever it leads. And whoever is responsible for this, I think, has to pay.

Question (Mr Chris Morris, BBC News): Just a follow up on that previous question there. The fact you say that it is hard to believe that there were no elements in the state involved suggests to me that you have strong suspicions but no concrete proof. Is that correct?

Foreign Secretary: I am not getting into the quality of the proof. I am not getting into a judgment on which bits of the proof are strong, weak. I am not getting into that at all. We have our own procedures for making evidence under the law in India available. So, that we will have to continue to follow. And that frankly is not a judgment that we in the External Affairs Ministry take. That is something that is a part of the internal legal process in India. So, I am not going to go into saying this is clinching, this is not clinching, something else leads somewhere. As I said, it is an ongoing investigation; it will go on; we will follow it where it leads. But I am not going to go into that.

Question (Mr Chris Morris, BBC News): But do you think the distinction between, rather an ugly phrase, non-state actors and state actors is an important one?

Foreign Secretary: We do not think there is such a thing as non-state actors. Even the so-called non-state actors function within a state, are citizens of a state. And certainly we find that distinction almost impossible to believe.

Question (Inaudible): Again, just to clarify what you are asking for. In the material that you have presented today, are you asking for Pakistan to extradite individual suspects? If so, how many, and are they current or retired members of the ISI? And, if not, what exactly are you asking Pakistan to do?

Foreign Secretary: Ditto. Same answer. It is hypothetical. I have told you what we asked. I told you we asked for legal assistance; we asked for assistance in bringing the perpetrators to Indian justice; we have also asked for credible action to guarantee that no terrorist attacks from Pakistan take place against India. The rest, all your other questions, are contained within that.

Question (Inaudible): But are you asking for extradition of the individual suspects?

Foreign Secretary: I told you I am not going to get into that. We will see where we go with this, with the answers that we get. So far we have not got any answers at all.

Question: Pakistan has also proposed to send a high-level delegation to Pakistan to discuss all these issues. India has rejected that?

Foreign Secretary: We are not quite sure what purpose that serves. First I think we need to see credible proof of sincerity. This is not an issue of words, of discussions, of a delegation, of another mechanism. As I said before, these are form, but they beg the substance of real action.

Question (Ms Sheela Bhatt, Rediff.Com): Sir, there was a general perception after the Mumbai attack almost for a month that Pakistan is in a denial mode. Do you think that kind of an attitude generally is still persisting?

Secondly, you have already briefed us about how from all over the world support is coming to India about this issue. Particularly I would like to know what kind of a role Iran and China are ready to play to pursue Pakistan to understand India’s expectations on this issue. Lastly, I would like to …

Foreign Secretary: How many questions? Hang on.

Question (Ms Sheela Bhatt, Rediff.Com): Sri Lanka issue is important. I just wanted to request you to please address that. Thank you.

Foreign Secretary: You have asked two questions. One is about international reactions. I do not want to go into how individual countries have reacted. Today when we discussed this, I think we have, with the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister for instance, we also discussed our cooperation, our counter terrorism cooperation; and both of us stressed how important it was. We have been, as I said, heartened by the response that we have got across the board from all the countries. The Iranian Vice Foreign Minister was here a week and a half ago where again we discussed this issue. What we heard from him was a clear condemnation of what happened in Mumbai or of the terrorism that was involved. I think the world is quite clear on where it stands on this kind of terrorist attack. And I think the world was horrified by the scale and the nature of this attack because it really was of a level of barbarity which I think was pretty well unprecedented. But I do not want to go into what each country will do. We would hope that certainly this kind of opinion in the world will also translate into encouragement to Pakistan to do the right thing. And that would be our expectation. That is really why we are briefing our friends around the world.

To respond to the other question of yours, I think I have made it clear to you, and we have made it clear to Pakistan also what we expect and what we would hope would happen in the future. There might have been denial in the past. We have been told by Pakistan that they are ready to cooperate with us. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We would like to see some real cooperation.

Question (Mr Ranjeet Kumar, Navbharat Times): There were nine other terrorists who came from Pakistan who were killed. Do you have information about them? Have you shared information about them with Pakistan and other countries?

Foreign Secretary: We have shared information.

Question (Mr Ranjeet Kumar, Navbharat Times): Can you share it with us?

Foreign Secretary: As I told you, the release of information in India into the public domain is something that follows the normal legal process. That is not something we do.

Question (Mr Srinjoy Chowdhury, Times Now): You have given this information to the Pakistani Government. Now you cannot wait forever for a reply. What kind of timeframe are you looking at? What is your expectation? When do you expect a reaction?

Secondly, you said that you expect an investigation on the other side. Has there been an investigation? Have you been told anything about it? If there is an investigation, what is the result? It has been five weeks.

Foreign Secretary: We were told by the Pakistan Government in December that they were carrying out their own investigation. As for a timeframe, we would like to have the results as quickly as possible. We would like to see real action as soon as possible.

Question (Mr Yuri Solonin, Parlamentskaya Gazeta, Russia): Is the Indian Government or the Indian Ministry of External Affairs going to strengthen cooperation in the frame of Joint Anti Terrorism Groups with the major players of international affairs? If so, in what way are you going maybe to strengthen the sharing of intelligence information, or maybe to provide some joint exercises against terrorism and so on?

Foreign Secretary: As of now we do cooperate with several countries in counter terrorism measures in various ways. Some of them you have mentioned yourself. One of the ways in which we have strengthened this actually since Mumbai is in a much quicker, much more detailed exchange of information, which has been going on. We will talk to our partners and see what they are comfortable with, what we are comfortable with, and we will certainly look forward working with the international community because we think this is a threat to the entire international community. It is not just a threat to India. The way this has been done, the manner in which it has been prepared, and the ideology that goes behind it, I think suggests that this is a threat to the entire international community. So, certainly we will strengthen the ways in which we work with our friends and partners.

Question (Mr. Manish Chand, IANS): Sir, what is the Indian stand now about Prabhakaran? Have you heard anything latest?

Foreign Secretary: Our position is quite clear that there are several aspects to the Sri Lankan problem, and that no one of them is sufficient to solve the problem. There is no military solution to this problem, for instance, no matter how the military situation might fluctuate. One side might be up, down, today, tomorrow, whatever. But that is neither here nor there. There is a political aspect which needs work because until there is a political understanding within the framework of a united Sri Lanka, within which all the communities in Sri Lanka are comfortable, you cannot speak of a political solution of the situation in Sri Lanka. There is a third aspect, which is a direct result of the military conflict and the absence of a political solution, which is the humanitarian problem for which, as you know, we have been working in the last several months as the fighting is intensified, to try and get relief to supplies and to try and get help to the civilian population who is caught up in this conflict. That we will continue to do. And we will continue to work with all those who are willing to do so, to try and help those poor civilians who are trapped in this zone of conflict. Quite frankly, the military situation might change, might vary. But there is more to the situation in Sri Lanka than just the military situation. I think that is very important.

On Prabhakaran our views are well known. I think we have consistently sought his extradition to face charges here, to face trial here actually. And that continues. That is a request we have renewed repeatedly.

Question (Mr Manish Chand, IANS): Mr. Menon, the Chinese Government and the state-controlled media there have been silent on the complicity of Pakistan based elements in the Mumbai attacks. This time around in your conversation with the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, did you see a change in the attitude? What are the Chinese telling us?

Foreign Secretary: I think we have shared some material with the Chinese authorities as well. EAM has written to his Chinese counterpart as well. I do not think there is any denial of the fact that there is terrorism and that it is coming out of Pakistan. I do not see that. What I do see is an understanding that this is a problem which affects, from their point of view, their relationships with two countries. Today the Vice Foreign Minister described India as a strategic partner. And he described Pakistan is a very close and important friend of China. So, I heard from him a natural concern that how this would affect both.

He also made it quite clear that on the terrorism issue China stands very firmly with us; looks forward to cooperating with us against terrorism; and that we will make sure that our joint institutions - we have a Joint Working Group for instance on counter terrorism with China - work effectively.

Thank you.