Britain promises more anti-terror aid to Pakistan


ISLAMABAD: December 14, 2008. (AFP) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday pledged more technical support and funding to help Pakistan and India battle terrorism in the wake of the attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people.

Brown made the offers as he made whirlwind visits to both nations' capitals and tried to calm tensions following the assaults, which India has blamed on a Pakistani-based Islamist group. Brown urged the nuclear-armed rivals to cooperate to peacefully resolve the crisis, which the U.S. fears could divert Pakistan's attention away from battling al-Qaida and Taliban militants along its border with Afghanistan. In Pakistan, Brown met with President Asif Ali Zardari and promised the Muslim nation new bomb-scanning technology, forensic assistance, help improving airport security and other support. He also announced a $9 million program to help fight the causes of extremism and strengthen democracy, including trying to reach out to and educate Pakistani youth to avoid radicalization. "We will continue to expand our counterterrorism assistance program with Pakistan, and it will be, more than ever, the most comprehensive anti-terrorism program Britain has signed with any country," Brown said at a joint news conference with Zardari. Brown also said more would be done with both India and Pakistan to share police data on terror suspects and groups. For Britain, which has a large South Asian population and colonial-era links to the region, the subject is of vital concern. Three-quarters of the most serious terror plots investigated by British authorities have links to al-Qaida in Pakistan, Brown said. The investigations included the trans-Atlantic airliner plot, where a group of men were accused of trying to blow up several airliners. Three of four British-born men who carried out the London suicide bombings that killed 52 commuters in 2005 had family ties to Pakistan. British citizens were also among the dead in the Mumbai attacks. "All of us suffer when terrorists are active and are able to impose their will," Brown said. Brown said he asked Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during breakfast Sunday if he would allow British authorities to question the only known surviving gunman in the Mumbai massacre, and asked Zadari for similar cooperation with arrested suspects. India has blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba Islamic group for the attacks, an assertion Brown echoed. "We also know that the group responsible (for the Mumbai attacks) is LET, and they have a great deal to answer for," Brown said. According to India, the 10 gunmen — nine of whom were killed — were from Pakistan, as were the handlers, masterminds, weapons, training camps and financing. Pakistan has arrested some suspected plotters and shut offices of a charity allegedly linked to Lashkar, but it is pressing India to provide evidence to aid in prosecutions. India now finds itself in the awkward position of potentially having to investigate terrorist attacks hand-in-hand with its longtime nemesis. The two countries have fought three wars against each other since independence from Britain in 1947. Zardari said Pakistan wants peaceful relations and views the post-Mumbai scenario as "an opportunity to cooperate with India, to take the relationship with India to another level." Adding to tensions, Pakistani officials said Indian aircraft violated Pakistan's airspace twice Saturday — over the eastern city of Lahore and in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. India denied the claims, and Pakistani officials tried to downplay the matter Sunday. Zardari said the incursions were "technical" and that the media were "trying to sell bad news." Two of the wars the sides have fought have been over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, whose status has emerged as a recurrent theme in the radicalization of young British Muslims. Despite a peace process that began in 2004, tensions remain high between India and Pakistan. Brown arrived in India following a surprise visit Saturday to Afghanistan, where he met with British soldiers and hinted Britain would provide more troops, saying Europe's streets were safer because of the fight in Afghanistan. While with Zardari, Brown said he also raised the subject of insecurity along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. Al-Qaida and Taliban militants have found safe havens on the Pakistani side, to the chagrin of U.S. and NATO leaders who fear the insurgents are using those sanctuaries to plot attacks on their troops in Afghanistan. Improving the border security "is in all our interest" Brown said, because of the "people practicing terror who are moving with ease." Brown is leading a review of the U.K.'s strategy in Afghanistan, and an announcement on troop deployment is expected in Parliament this week. American leaders say thousands of incoming U.S. troops will be sent to reinforce British forces in the restive south. Britain has some 8,200 troops in Afghanistan. More than 130 British soldiers have died there since 2001

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