US Senator John McCain has said he believes that if Pakistan does not act against individuals and groups linked to the Mumbai terror attacks, it could be a ‘matter of days’ before India carries out surgical strikes against such elements.
There is enough evidence of the involvement of former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officers in the planning and execution of the Mumbai attacks and terrorist training camps are still operational in Pakistan, McCain told a small group of senior Pakistani journalists at an informal lunch in Lahore on Saturday.
Ejaz Haider, a senior editor with the Daily Times group, quoted McCain as saying that he believed it could be a ‘matter of days’ before India carried out surgical air strikes if Pakistan did not act on the evidence provided to it on elements linked to the attacks.
McCain also said that the terrorist training camps were being emptied ‘as we speak’, Haider told Dawn News channel. Referring to the terror training camps as ‘red dots on the map’, McCain indicated that their number had increased since the time the US launched its campaign in Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
McCain, arrived in Pakistan with two other senior senators on Friday after a brief visit to India. Referring to his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, McCain said the Indian leader, who is not easily ruffled, had appeared visibly angry.
In a report in the media, Haider wrote McCain had said that if “Pakistan does not act, and act fast, to arrest the involved people, India will be left with no option but to conduct aerial operations against select targets in Pakistan”.
McCain said this is what he and the other senators were told by Manmohan Singh, who, as McCain put it, was “reeling from the shock” of the attacks.
“The democratic government of India is under pressure and it will be a matter of days after they have given the evidence to Pakistan to use the option of force if Islamabad fails to act against the terrorists,” McCain said.
Asked what the US would do if India carries out such a threat, McCain said Washington will not be able to do much. However, he said “privately I will try to dissuade India from doing so”. “We were angry after 9/11. This is India’s 9/11. We cannot tell India not to act when that is what we did, asking the Taliban to handover Osama Bin Laden to avoid a war and waging one when they refused to do so,” he said.
McCain conceded that such an Indian attack could beget retaliation from Pakistan and this was precisely the “trajectory of actions and reactions that those who attacked Mumbai were hoping for.”
He stressed that if Pakistan does not do anything at this point to find and arrest the ‘bad guys’, India will have no option but to use force.
The US Senate delegation later travelled to Islamabad, where they met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other top leaders.