US commitment to fight terrorism should be total: Mukherjee

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Helmand (Afghanistan), Jan.22 (ANI): Having handed over the 215-km-long Zaranj-Delaram Highway to Afghanistan, visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee used his two-day visit to this landlocked war and militant ravaged country to reiterate on Thursday the United States key role in tackling terror in South Asia.

Talking to ANI here, he said that relations between India and the United States "has reached new heights in the last couple of years and it should be maintained at that level."

As far as combating the menace of terror, he said the new Barack Obama-led administration's commitment "to fight terrorism should be total".

"Sometimes, we find that there is an attempt to equate the perpetrators of a terror act and the victims of terror together, and hyphenate it. This tendency must be avoided. Punitive measures should be taken to bring them (the perpetrators) to justice," Mukherjee said before boarding a flight from the Helmand air base.

"Terrorist elements can be state or non-state actors. Perpetrators of terrorist acts must be penalized, and it is the primary responsibility of the government to do so," he added.

Mukherjee's statement assumes significance in the context of the November 26-29, 2008 terror strikes in Mumbai, which claimed 179 lives and left another 300 injured. In the context of Afghanistan, the statement assumes significance in the wake of the July 7, 2008 suicide bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul that claimed over 40 lives.

Insofar as Washington's role is concerned, the minister appeared to be suggesting that there should not be any relaxation on the war on terror in the tribal-dominated badlands of north-western Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. y Naveen Kapoor (ANI)

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