(photo credit: AP)
A syndicate of terror groups is working to sow violence and
destruction across South Asia, and India and Pakistan need to work together to
combat the mutual threat, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.
Gates, who spoke during a visit to , said no
nation was immune from terror.
He linked Taliban militants operating along the Pakistan-Afghanistan
border with Lashkar-e-Taiba extremists accused of orchestrating the 2008 terror
attack on the Indian city of ,
saying both groups worked under the umbrella of al-Qaida.
"It's dangerous to single out any one of these groups
and say, 'If we can beat that group, that will solve the problem,' because they
are in effect a syndicate of terrorist operators intended to destabilize this entire
region," Gates said.
When one group succeeds in carrying out an attack, all of
them gain in capability and reputation, he said. "A victory for one is a
victory for all."
The groups were hoping to spark a conflict between and ,
or provoke instability in ,
he said. He urged a coordinated effort by
to fight the terror groups, but such cooperation is likely to be a tough sell.
The neighbors have fought three wars and remain wary over
each other's intentions.
is unhappy with 's
significant influence in ,
and accuses of
harboring terror groups plotting attacks here.
blames the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, which killed 166 people, on the
Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group. Following the assault, froze talks with that had been aimed at resolving the
long-running dispute over , which both
countries claim in its entirety.
Gates praised both nuclear-armed nations for their restraint
in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, but cautioned that it might not hold.
"It is not unreasonable to assume that Indian patience
would be limited were there another attack," he said.
After meetings Wednesday, Gates and his entourage flew on
Indian military planes to the city of ,
where he visited the Taj Mahal.
Gates arrived in on Tuesday and met with Prime
Minister and other top officials. He urged them to finalize long-pending
security cooperation agreements between the two countries, he said.
spending billions annually on US-made military hardware, although Gates said
current agreements prevent
from being able to buy some
weaponry or technology.