NEW DELHI: The Indian government welcomed the US bounty for LeT founder Hafiz Saeed with a sense of vindication on Tuesday.
The United States has offered a $10 million reward for the capture of the founder of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The bounty for Saeed, who has made frequent public appearances in Pakistan as of late, was announced by US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman in India on Monday and posted on the US government’s Rewards for Justice website.
“It reflects the commitment of India and the United States to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“It also sends a strong signal to LeT and also its members and patrons that the international community remains united in combating terrorism.”
Washington also posted a $2 million reward for Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, described as LeT’s second-in-command.
Furthermore, the foreign ministry statement said: “The foreign secretary expressed India’s sincere appreciation for US’ step to target Saeed and Makki as well as LeT.”
The move also indicates closer cooperation between the US and India in fighting extremism in the region.
“In recent years, India and the US have deepened mutual understanding on the nature of the challenges faced in fighting terrorism emanating from India’s neighbourhood. The two countries agree that all terrorist organisations, including LeT, should be defeated and have called for elimination of terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the foreign ministry statement added.
However, even though the Indian has welcomed the US move, many in India and Pakistan are sceptical whether the $10 million bounty would have any effect.
“He is intrinsically linked to the ISI, the paramilitary and the proxy fighting apparatus in Pakistan, so he is high up the chain,” Sreeram Chaulia, a professor at India’s Jindal School of International Affairs, told AFP.
“The Pakistan establishment will not hand him over for the bounty, and any private citizen who tries to make cash through tipping off the Americans will be targeted.”
Pakistan put Saeed under house arrest a month after the Mumbai attacks. But he was freed in 2009, and in 2010 the Supreme Court upheld his release on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to detain him.
Analyst Imtiaz Gul said previous unsuccessful legal action against Saeed made it difficult to detain him again.
“Arrest him on what grounds? The mere fact that the US says something may not necessarily relate in a legal case against somebody,” he told AFP.
“There has to be some sort of evidence that you can prove in a court of law.”
Earlier, the US State Department had strongly urged Pakistan to prevent Hafiz Saeed from moving freely in the country, freeze the assets of the groups associated with him and stop allowing LeT from acquiring weapons.
“The US government is concerned about the recent public appearances of Jamaatud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed, including at a recent rally in Karachi,” said the department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland.