India raises spectre of war over Mumbai attacks

The Indian foreign minister has refused to rule out military action against Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks, contradicting earlier statements.

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee told Indian media that “every sovereign country has the right to protect its territorial integrity”.

Following a meeting of the security cabinet earlier on Tuesday, Mr Mukherjee had told reporters: “Nobody is talking of military action.”

But later on in an interview with NDTV the minister, when asked about a military response to the Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed up to 188 people, said: “As and when it takes place, people will come to know, it’s not publicised.

“I am not making any comment on the military option, what I am saying is that every sovereign country has the right to protect its territorial integrity and take appropriate action and when it feels necessary to take that appropriate action.

“What will be done, time will show and you will come to know,” Mr Mukherjee added.

New Delhi has previously stated that Pakistani elements were responsible for the attacks, but Islamabad has insisted it played no role.

A previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the actions of the ten gunmen – only one of whom survived the attacks – last week.

But Indian authorities believe militants from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group are involved and are demanding Islamabad hand over 20 fugitives.

Despite earlier insistence from Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari that the Mumbai attacks would not drag the two countries – who have fought three times since partition – into war, the extradition request has strained relations further.

Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani wants proof that the attackers were Pakistanis before handing over any suspects.

Outgoing US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is due to arrive in India tomorrow for talks in light of the Mumbai attacks.$1252412.htm