Chidambaram: India “lives in perhaps the most difficult neighbourhood in the world”

The U.S. has given India “full access” to David Coleman Headley, the U.S.-based Lashkar-e-Taiba operative of Pakistani origin who played a key role in the Mumbai attacks, U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said on Friday.

“I think when the case is over, there will probably be more access given,” she said, addressing a press conference with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram after the India-U.S. homeland security dialogue got under way here.

She parried questions whether she agreed with India's conviction that Pakistan's ISI was involved in plotting the Mumbai attacks and whether the U.S. would lean on Islamabad to end terror aimed at India. “Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton] is today in Pakistan and has already commented on it,” she said.

In his opening remarks earlier in the day, Mr. Chidambaram pointed out to his U.S. counterpart that India “lives in perhaps the most difficult neighbourhood in the world.” The “global epicentre of terrorism is in our immediate western neighbourhood.”

“In a world of complex challenges, including the new and emerging forms of threats, terrorism remains a principal challenge for our two countries,” he said.

In an obvious reference to the recent killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in Pakistan and the terror attack on the Pakistan Naval Station Mehran in Karachi, he said: “The events of the past few days, especially inside Pakistan, speak to the successes and to the enduring risks and challenges.”

“The vast infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan has for long flourished as an instrument of state policy. Today, different terrorist groups, operating from the safe havens in Pakistan, are becoming increasingly fused; the society in Pakistan has become increasingly radicalised; its economy has weakened; and the state structure in Pakistan has become fragile. Today, Pakistan itself faces a major threat from the same forces. Its people as well as its state institutions are under attack,” he said.

Given the complexity of the region, he said, India had a comprehensive neighbourhood strategy based on political engagement, especially with Pakistan; support for political stability; assistance for economic development; and improved connectivity and market access for neighbours to the Indian economy. “A stable, peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood is vital for the security of the people of India.”

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