Pakistan announced that it has arrested 71 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and detained 124 more in an effort to crack down on the Islamic militant group believed to be responsible for November's attacks on the Indian city of Mumba. India's foreign minister insisted that Pakistan must extradite the suspects for trial in India, backing down from his earlier statement that India might accept a trial in Pakistan.
The Associated Press reports that the arrests come as part of Pakistan's investigation into the attacks, which left 164 people dead and heightened tensions between the neighboring nuclear powers. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947.
Pakistan insisted it would help India to bring those behind the Mumbai terrorist attacks to justice, saying Thursday it had shut down extremist Web sites and suspected militant training camps, and detained 71 people in a deepening probe.
Still, a top Pakistani official said authorities needed to further investigate information about the attacks provided by archrival India before it could be used to prosecute suspects in court.
Days after the November attacks, the U.N. Security Council declared that Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity in Pakistan, was merely a front for the outlawed militant organization.
Pakistan announced that Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammed Saeed and its "operations commander" Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi were among those detained by Islamabad, according to English-language newspaper Dawn in Pakistan.
"We have arrested a total of 124 mid-level and top leaders of JuD in response to a UN resolution — 69 from Punjab, 21 from Sindh, eight from Balochistan and 25 from the NWFP — blocked six websites associated with the organisation and closed down its five relief camps," the adviser said. He said 20 offices, 87 schools, two libraries, seven seminaries and a handful of other organisations and websites linked to Jamaatud Dawa had also been shut.
Dawn adds that although Mr. Malik did not comment on legal action against any of those arrested or detained, sources told the paper that Pakistan is considering bringing at least three of Lashkar-e-Taiba's leaders to trial.
After Islamabad's announcement, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee retreated from his earlier indication that India would accept a Pakistani trial for the suspected Mumbai attackers, reports Reuters.
"We have never given up the demand that the perpetrators of the terror act should be handed over to India," Mukherjee said.
"There is no question of that [giving up the extradition demand] or climb down."
The minister was reported to have said this week in an interview with the India Today media group that those accused in the Mumbai attacks could be tried and punished in Pakistan, a comment Indian newspapers interpreted as a climbdown in New Delhi's demand for extradition of militants.
Mukherjee's India Today interview came after Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the Pakistani state was not linked to the Mumbai attacks and he showed no support for India's demand for extradition of the accused.
The BBC notes that Mr. Miliband is currently visiting Pakistan in an effort to ease tensions between the two nations. He said Thursday there is no evidence that the Pakistani government was involved in the Mumbai attacks, and he has not supported Indian demands for extradition of the suspects.
The US is working to increase the cooperation between India and Pakistan, indicates The Wall Street Journal. The Journal writes that the CIA has been serving as a go-between for the two countries in order to better resolve the consequences of the Mumbai attacks.
A senior Pakistani official said significant progress has been made in the investigation of the attacks. A report on Pakistan's findings was sent to India through the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency last week, the official said.
New Delhi and Islamabad have mainly been communicating through the CIA, the official said. The chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Shuja Ahmed Pasha, met with a top CIA official this month in connection with Pakistan's investigation, the official said.
CIA Director Michael Hayden on Thursday confirmed the CIA's efforts. "We've had some success in that regard," he said. "We've had a long, and frankly in many ways very profitable, relationship with ISI, and we've tried to use our friendship with the service to help this move in the right direction."
The "right" direction is what is in the U.S. government's interest, he said, describing that as: "Who did this? Why? Don't let it happen again. And bring justice to those who have done it."
"This is what Pakistan's done for a long time," said Suba Chandran, assistant director of New Delhi's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. "The arrests are always challenged in the court of law of Pakistan and they're released in a week or 10 days. And most of the schools are asked to close, then reopen in a day or two."
The Times also noted the Indian press's dubiousness, writing that during the broadcast of Malik's comments on CNN-IBN, the Indian news channel ran a caption declaring "Pakistan Double Talk Again."
Nor was the Indian media any softer on its own government's initial response. Mr. Mukherjee ignited a firestorm of criticism when he indicated India's acceptance of trying the Mumbai suspects in Pakistan. IBN Live declared that New Delhi "gave in." The Statesman described New Delhi's decision as "capitulation."
The Economic Times was slightly kinder, saying that the New Delhi was "settling" for a Pakistani trial, but still criticized the decision as "yet another instance of 'one step forward, two steps backward' approach" of the government. The Economic Times continued, citing experts who criticized the government for putting British and American policy interests above India's own.
Analysts criticized the government for failing to take even the most elementary of steps to send a strong message to Pakistan. Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies with the Centre for Policy Research, accused the government of outsourcing its Pakistan policy. "It's obvious we have outsourced our Pakistan policy. the only thing we are doing is engaging in a war of words," he said.
He further pointed out that the government is yet to take the smallest of diplomatic steps like cutting cultural or sporting ties. "With one eye on the elections, the government appears tough without actually being tough," he added. "Seven weeks have passed since Mumbai and we have nothing to show for it."
Another analyst Bharat Karnad pointed out that with the passage of time, India's options are dwindling. "Once you leave it to a third country, you have lost the initiative," he said. He pointed out that the US and UK would follow their own national interest. "They are not going to let the Pakistan state go down. No matter what," he said.