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Efforts Underway to Defuse Rising Indo-Pakistani Tension


A trio of U.S. senators is in South Asia, one of several sets of high-level foreign visitors trying to defuse rising tension between India and Pakistan following the Mumbai terror attacks. Meanwhile, India is renewing demands Pakistan hand over wanted fugitives. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

Three senior U.S. senators who met with top Indian-government officials say emotions are running high following the Mumbai terror attack.

Senator Joseph Lieberman told reporters the feelings expressed during their meeting Tuesday with prime minister Manmohan Singh and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee are understandable.

"They are clearly both full of pain and anger as I am sure most of the people of India are. And, as I can tell you, most of the people of America are," Lieberman said.

The U.S. lawmakers are among those visiting the region to offer condolences and perhaps engage in some shuttle diplomacy. The senators are to meet top Pakistani government and military leaders in Islamabad later in the week.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa is also in the Indian capital. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice arrives Wednesday. Russian president Dmitri Medvedev is due Thursday.

Senator John McCain says Mumbai's attackers meant to put India and Pakistan at each others' throats again.

"One of the objects of the terrorist attack and this act of outrage is to try to provoke confrontation between Pakistan and India," McCain said. "And I know that this [Indian] government is committed to not letting that happen."

But the senators say New Delhi, which is blaming "elements" in Pakistan for the attack, needs answers from Islamabad.

Senator Lindsey Graham says he feels there is now a "real strong resolve" among India's leaders to make needed changes to bolster the country's internal security.

India and Pakistan, which both have nuclear weapons, now face their worst state of relations in six years. The two have gone to war against each other three times since their independence in 1947.

Foreign minister Mukherjee acknowledges the India-Pakistan peace process is jeopardized. He has handed Pakistan's top envoy here a formal diplomatic note - known as a demarche - with the names of about 20 individuals India wants Pakistan to extradite.

"The demarche asks the arrest and hand-over of those persons who are settled in Pakistan and who are fugitives of Indian law," Mukherjee said.

Those on the list include the infamous Mumbai crime kingpin, Dawood Ibrahim, and Maulana Masood Azhar - a Pakistani Muslim cleric who, in 1999, was freed from an Indian prison, in exchange for passengers on a hijacked Indian airliner.

Ibrahim is considered India's most wanted man. His organization is suspected of involvement in a 1993 bombing in Mumbai that left 250 people dead. Indian media reports say there is also official suspicion some of his underlings may have provided support to the terrorists who struck last week.

Azhar leads the group Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is believed to support Muslim separatists in the part of disputed Kashmir which is under Indian control.

India initially gave Pakistani officials such a list six years ago and says it never received an adequate response.

Top Pakistani government officials promise cooperation with India to determine responsibility for the attack on Mumbai. But Islamabad rejects any allegations of complicity, blaming "non-state actors", which Pakistan says it is also battling and says India must provide specific information of those it accuses of taking part.


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