Sarkozy salutes 26/11 victims, hits out at Pakistan (Evening Lead)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

MUMBAI - French President Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday paid homage to victims of 26/11 while hitting out at Pakistan, saying terrorist attacks emanating from Pakistani soil need to end and now.

In a hard-hitting speech delivered in the main lobby of the Oberoi-Trident hotel, one of the places which Pakistani terrorists attacked in November 2008, Sarkozy also referred to “Islamist terrorists” which he said his country was battling.

“It is unacceptable that terrorist acts should be masterminded and carried out by terrorist groups in Pakistan,” Sarkozy said on the last leg of his four-day trip to India.

“I call on all Pakistani authorities to step up their efforts and show that they are resolute in combating these criminals.”

About 200 guests, including French citizens, heard him in silence as Sarkozy harped on the theme of terror. His wife Carla Bruni stood by his side as he spoke from a makeshift platform.

One of the guests was Jhillu Yadav, a railway employee at the Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus Station who risked his life with repeated announcements asking people to flee even as gunmen were firing away.

“The Mumbai attack proved one more time that terrorism is nothing but criminal activity. It pretends to act for political or religious objectives, but it is just savagery. It pretends to serve ideals but it injures them through its acts.” Sakozy said in his 20-minute speech in French.

“It is not acceptable that terrorist groups operating from neighbouring territories are able to threaten the security of India.”

Ten terrorists from Pakistan sneaked into Mumbai and went on a killing spree over three days in November 2008, leaving at least 166 people dead. Two of them were French citizens.

Sarkozy said France would stand by India till justice was rendered for the Mumbai savagery.

He praised Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for showing “remarkable restraint” after the 2008 attack.

“The Indian prime minister … is continuing the dialogue with Pakistan and has tenaciously created politics of dialogue which France supports.”

Sarkozy, however, underlined that France valued its relations with Pakistan. “A Pakistan which is democratic, stable and prosperous, is in the interest of this region and the world.

“France itself has been menaced and blackmailed by Islamist terrorists to whom it may not give in. France has intensified its efforts to eradicate terrorism,” he added.

Sarkozy emphasised that there should be no limit to international cooperation to defeat terrorists.

“I have asked the Indian prime minister and the president of the European Union to ensure this subject be discussed on priority so that our resources and capacities can be put together,” he said.

On the occasion, Sarkozy presented a medal to Devendra Bharma, executive vice president of the Oberoi Hotel, and Karambir Kang, general manager of the nearby Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, for showing courage during 26/11 that possibly saved hundreds of loves.

“You were there day and night, making decisions even at the cost of your own lives,” he told them.

Sarkozy expressed happiness that Mumbai, India’s financial hub, had moved ahead. “I am happy Bombay (Mumbai) has been able to heal its wounds in so less time and go forward.”

Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayan called for global efforts to battle terrorism. “We value our cooperation with France in counter terror, especially in the context of our strategic partnership.”

Sarkozy arrived in India on a four-day visit Dec 4. He visited Bangalore and the Taj Mahal town of Agra before meeting the Indian leadership in New Delhi.

Filed under: Terrorism

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