Home Minister P Chidambaram and Pakistan High Commissioner Shahid Malik were engaged in an unusual exchange of words on Friday with the minister stating that all militant outfits across the border are supported by ISI and the envoy rebutting any involvement of state actors in terror acts against India.
He said if it was established with a reasonable degree of certainty that the attacks orginated from Pakistani soil, "then we will respond swiftly and decisively".
The Minister made it clear that "war is not an option" so the two countries, both nuclear powers, "must talk when we can" and, at other times, " we have to be vigilant".
"We cannot change our neighbour", he said adding Pakistan has been a "very difficult neighbour from 1947".
Chidambaram, who chose not to make any mention of Pakistan in his opening remarks at the India Today conclave in Delhi, voiced New Delhi's concerns over Pakistan-sponsored terrorism during the question and answer session.
"It is no secret that every militant organisation in Pakistan is support by the ISI," he said while taking the names of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and some other groups operating in that country.
In a bid to counter the charge, the Pakistan envoy raised the issue of alleged Indian involvement in Balochistan and about the activities of Indian consultates in Afghanistan. Islamabad has alleged that the Indian consulates were stirring up trouble for Pakistan, a charge denied by India.
"There are no state actors involved in any act detrimental to the interests of India," he said.
Chidambaram said he had hoped not to enter into a public debate with the envoy who was only stating his government's position but wanted to put their assertion to test.
He said Pakistan should give voice samples of the list suspects given by India to match them with the voice transcripts of the 26/11 handlers in a neutral country to know whether they are state actors.
He indicated that there may be another around of talks between Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir. There is speculation that this may take place later this month.
Malik contended that it was Rao who had telephone the Pakistan Foreign Secretary for talks. "We hoped something positive will come out of it and we welcomed the opportunity".
India said terrorism will be one of the main agenda and the Pakistani side said it too had its own concerns and willing to discuss it.
"We repeatedly asked India to share with us real time information on terrorism," he said in an apparent reference to Pakistan's claim that the 10 dossiers provided by India contained only "literature" and nothing concrete for them to act upon.
Responding to a questioner who objected to the term 'jehadi terrorism', Chidambaram said Hafiz Sayeed, the 26/11 mastermind as also LeT and JuD leaders have been repeatedly talking about 'jehad' to justify their acts of terror.
On Naxalism, Chidambaram said government had the legitimate right to use as much force as necessary to regain control of areas dominated by the Maoists and made it clear that talks with it could only take place if the ultras abjured violence.
Terming Naxalism as a "graver problem" than jihadi terrorism, Chidambaram vowed to effectively tackle the threat from Maoists, who have declared a war against the Indian state, before the term of the government ends.
Chidambaram said the goal of the Maoists was armed liberation struggle and the sole purpose was to seize power.
Referring to the offer of talks made by the government to the Maoists recently, he asked, "Why aren't the Maoists making a simple statement that we abjure violence?"
He said in such a situation, it was the legitimate right of the government to use as much force necessary to regain the areas and hoped that once the government regains control in two to three years, it would usher in development.
"We are confident that before the term of UPA II ends, we will get rid of Naxals and will have considerably strengthened our security to face any threat," he said.
Chidambaram described naxalism as a "graver problem" than that of jihadi terrorism and pointed out that they have presence in 200 districts of the country and virtually control 34.
"They (Maoists) have declared a war on the Indian state...They are anti-development. They do not want the poor to be emancipated or become economically free," Chidambaram said, adding civil right groups naively think that naxalites are pro-poor.
The Home Minister referred to the "splendid cooperation" from Bangladesh in tackling militancy after Sheikh Hasina's government came to power but expressed concern over recent developments in Nepal where, he said, there was "sprouting of anti-India activity". PTI