New Delhi: India on Tuesday welcomed the US bounty on Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) founder and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, saying the announcement sends a strong signal to the LeT, its members and patrons that the international community remains united in combating terrorism.
"India welcomes this new initiative of US. This sends a strong message for the perpetrators of terrorism. This shows that international community stands united in fight against terrorism," External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said.
"Hafiz Saeed is very safely somewhere in Pakistan. The US keeps a tap on terrorists across the world. I am sure that US is keeping track of Saeed as well. These conspirators cannot be spared. I have always raised this at the bilateral talks," he added.
The US has offered a $10 million bounty for the founder of the Pakistani militant group blamed for the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people, a move that could complicate US-Pakistan relations at a tense time.
Welcoming the move, MEA Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin tweeted, "India welcomes US notification under the Rewards for Justice Programme. It reflects commitment of India and the US to bring perpetrators of Mumbai terrorist attack to justice and continuing efforts to combat terrorism.”
Hafiz Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba in the 1980s, allegedly with Pakistani support to pressure archenemy India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Pakistan banned the group in 2002 under pressure from the US but has done little to crack down on its activities.
Saeed operates openly in the country, giving public speeches and appearing on TV talk shows. The US also offered up to $2 million for Lashkar-e-Taiba's deputy leader, Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki.
The bounties were posted on the US State Department Rewards for Justice website late Monday, the US Embassy in Islamabad said on Tuesday.
The reward for Saeed is one of the highest offered by the program and is equal to the amount for Taliban chief Mullah Omar. Only Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as al-Qaida chief, fetches a higher, $25 million bounty.
US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman announced the bounty for Lashkar-e-Taiba's leader and deputy on Monday during a visit to India, according to reports.
The move comes at a particularly tense time in the troubled relationship with the US and Pakistan. Pakistan's parliament is currently debating a revised framework for relations with the US in the wake of American airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November at two posts along the Afghan border.
Pakistan retaliated by kicking the US out of a base used by American drones and closing its border crossings to supplies meant for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
The US hopes the parliamentary debate will result in Pakistan reopening the supply lines. The closure has been a headache for the U.S. because it has had to spend more money sending supplies through an alternate route that runs through Central Asia. It also needs the route to withdraw equipment as it seeks to pull most of its combat forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
But it's unclear whether the US will be willing to meet Pakistan's demands, which include higher transit fees for the supplies and an unconditional apology for the airstrikes, which the US has said were an accident. Pakistan has also demanded an end to American drone strikes in Pakistan, but it's unclear if that will be tied to the reopening of the supply line.
1. Hafiz Saeed's terror activities have been known for long, so why is the US acting now?
2. Is there a need to announce the reward when Saeed has been openly addressing rallies?
3. Is the US trying to influence its ongoing dialogue with Pakistan?
(With additional inputs from AP)