Gates: No nation is immune from terror

US defense secretary urges India and Pakistan to work together to combat syndicate of terror groups.

Gates 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Gates 298.88
(photo credit: AP)

A syndicate of terror groups is working to sow violence anddestruction across South Asia, and India and Pakistan need to work together tocombat the mutual threat, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.

Gates, who spoke during a visit to , said nonation was immune from terror.

He linked Taliban militants operating along the Pakistan-Afghanistanborder with Lashkar-e-Taiba extremists accused of orchestrating the 2008 terrorattack 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 groupsand say, 'If we can beat that group, that will solve the problem,' because theyare in effect a syndicate of terrorist operators intended to destabilize this entireregion," Gates said.

When one group succeeds in carrying out an attack, all ofthem gain in capability and reputation, he said. "A victory for one is avictory for all."

The groups were hoping to spark a conflict between and ,or provoke instability in ,he said. He urged a coordinated effort by and to fight the terror groups, but such cooperation is likely to be a tough sell.

The neighbors have fought three wars and remain wary overeach other's intentions. is unhappy with 'ssignificant influence in ,and accuses ofharboring terror groups plotting attacks here.

blames the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, which killed 166 people, on thePakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group. Following the assault, froze talks with that had been aimed at resolving thelong-running dispute over , which bothcountries claim in its entirety.

Gates praised both nuclear-armed nations for their restraintin the wake of the Mumbai attacks, but cautioned that it might not hold.

"It is not unreasonable to assume that Indian patiencewould be limited were there another attack," he said.

After meetings Wednesday, Gates and his entourage flew onIndian military planes to the city of ,where he visited the Taj Mahal.

Gates arrived in on Tuesday and met with PrimeMinister and other top officials. He urged them to finalize long-pendingsecurity cooperation agreements between the two countries, he said.

isspending billions annually on US-made military hardware, although Gates saidcurrent agreements prevent from being able to buy some weaponry or technology.