26 Jan 2009

India honours heroes of Mumbai attack

10:25 pm on 26 January 2009

India bestowed its highest peacetime gallantry award on Monday on half a dozen security men killed fighting Pakistani militants in Mumbai last year, an attack that worsened tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Thousands of police and soldiers lined the route of the annual military parade in New Delhi, while the chief guest, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, looked on with Indian leaders from a bullet-proof stand.

In a ceremony steeped in symbolism, President Pratibha Patil gave away India's highest peacetime military awards to 11 policemen and soldiers posthumously, including six shot dead fighting Pakistani militants in Mumbai.

Mr Patil handed over a citation and a medal to the family members of the dead security men, while a sombre announcement recalled their "valiant actions and supreme sacrifice".

The Mumbai attacks, in which 10 gunmen killed 179 people in coordinated attacks, reignited tensions between the two South Asian rivals, with India blaming Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militants while also accusing Islamabad of not taking action.

India, which has mounted a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan, is frustrated at what it sees as Pakistan's slow response in arresting planners of the attacks.

Despite the tension, the chances of military confrontation between the old foes who have fought three wars since 1947 is low thanks in part to the diplomacy of the United States and other powers, analysts say.