India on Tuesday asked Pakistan to tone down its war rhetoric, and urged it to act against the perpetrators of the Mumbai mayhem instead. Only this will lead to the resumption of dialogue between the two, India stressed.
"There is no escalation on India's part," Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in New Delhi while reacting to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's comment asking New Delhi to "relocate forces to peacetime locations".
Mukherjee again sought that Pakistan hand over to India fugitives accused of involvement in terrorist and subversive activities in India. "Act on earlier evidence. What stops them from handing over Masood Azhar? The hijacking did not take place in Pakistan. How is the man visible in Pakistan?" Mukherjee asked.
Maulana Masood Azhar was freed with two other terrorists of Pakistan-based outfits, who were jailed in India, after an Indian Airlines aircraft was hijacked from Nepal to Kandahar in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in December 1999. The hijackers were Pakistanis, India says. Islamabad denies this.
Indian investigators say Azhar, who later moved to Pakistan and addressed public meetings there, founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed group that carried out the audacious attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001. Azhar is among 40 fugitives India wants Pakistan to return so that they could face trials in Indian courts.
"There has been no escalation on India's part. De-escalation can only happen if there were escalation in the first place," external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash told IANS when asked about Pakistan's allegation about troops build-up on the border.
"The hysteria has been created by our friends in Pakistan," he said.
"What we want to see is not more talk, but action. The ball is now in Pakistan's court," he replied when asked about Pakistan's call for resuming talks to resolve the issues arising out of the Mumbai attacks.
Underlining India's growing exasperation with Pakistan's diversionary tactics, Prakash stressed that the external affairs minister has already assured that "suitable evidence" will be shared after the probe into the Nov 26 Mumbai attacks is complete.
"It's not a question of evidence. It's a question of will," the spokesperson said, adding that New Delhi has shared evidence with Islamabad at least 10 times, but nothing was done.
"We have had many rounds of talks but Pakistan has not honoured its pledge given by its top leaders," he said and indicated that the resumption of talks would depend on "meaningful action" by Pakistan against anti-India terror outfits.
He was alluding to the Jan 6, 2004, and Sep 24, 2008, pledge by Pakistani leaders that the Pakistani territory would not be used as a launching pad for terror strikes against India.
The Indian Army also denied there was a build-up of troops on the border and said the soldiers were only on alert.
A senior Indian Army officer, who said he was reflecting the official position but could not be identified, said: "We have not deployed any troops along the border. It was Pakistan that whipped up war rhetoric and not us."
"Our forces are only on alert so that they can be pressed into operations if need arises," the official said when asked about Qureshi asking India to "de-escalate tensions" in the wake of the Mumbai carnage.
"India should de-activate forward air bases and relocate forces to the peacetime locations," Qureshi said on the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) Tuesday.
"Positive developments have taken place in the last 48 hours and we welcome (Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab) Mukherjee's denial of a war ultimatum," he said.
Qureshi said Pakistan would positively take action against those found involved in terrorism, if evidence was provided against them by the Indian authorities.
Also on Tuesday, Pakistan's National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani called for the resumption of dialogue between the two nations to resolve issues arising out of the Mumbai attacks for which India has blamed Pakistan-based terrorists.
"The media has created unnecessary hype. We have to remove mistrust. We have to talk to each other," Durrani told CNN-IBN news channel from Islamabad.
Last week, Pranab Mukherjee cautioned Pakistan against war hysteria and asked Islamabad to address the key issue of terrorism emanating from Pakistani territory.
Relations between India and Pakistan went into a tailspin following the Nov 26-29 terror strikes in Mumbai that left over 170 people dead, including 26 foreigners.
India has been maintaining that the 10 terrorists who ravaged the financial and entertainment capital of India had come from Pakistan and were members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit based in Muridke, near Lahore.