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India Calls Benazir Bhutto's Death Blow to Democratic Process in Pakistan

  • Anjana Pasricha

India expressed shock at the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, calling her death a setback to the restoration of democracy. Indian leaders also say her death underlines the need to combat terrorism in the South Asian region. Anjana Pasricha has a report from VOA's New Delhi bureau.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the death of Benazir Bhutto a blow to the democratic process in Pakistan.

In a statement, he said the subcontinent has lost "an outstanding leader, who worked for democracy and reconciliation in her country."

Ms. Bhutto was killed as she left an election rally in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi. Police and aides say a suicide bomber fired gunshots at Ms. Bhutto just moments before blowing himself up

The Indian prime minister said her assassination is a reminder of the common dangers "our region faces from cowardly acts of terrorism and of the need to eradicate this dangerous threat."

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee reiterated the concern.

"That she should fall to a barbarous terrorist attack is particularly tragic, and should strengthen our resolve to fight this scourge," said Mukherjee. "Mrs. Bhutto's contributions to democracy, to the improvement of India-Pakistan relations and to the restoration of normalcy within Pakistan will be an inspiration."

India was hoping that Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan and participation in the elections scheduled to be held in early January would restore a measure of democracy to the country. Ms. Bhutto had also repeatedly expressed her resolve to combat Islamic extremism.

Independent political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan says there are worries in New Delhi about possible instability in Pakistan following her death.

"There is very serious concern about the transition to a democratic regime and for stability in Pakistan," said Rangarajan. "If that transition gets interrupted, or if that stability gets endangered, it would have critical consequences, not only for India and Pakistan, but for this entire region."

India is worried that instability in Pakistan could strengthen Islamic militant groups based in the region. New Delhi has repeatedly blamed these groups for fomenting an insurgency in Indian Kashmir and for terror attacks in other parts of the country.

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