The main political gain for India from the arrest of Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Abu Jundal, also known by his operational name Abu Hamza, will be its impact on Pakistan.
Islamabad, already isolated on other issues, will be shocked when it realises how the arrest took place.
Indian intelligence agencies tracked 26/11 accused Abu Jundal alias Zaibuddin Ansari to Saudi Arabia and brought him to Delhi on June 21.
Various sources say the initial tip-off that Jundal was in Saudi Arabia came from US intelligence. He was then apprehended by Riyadh which in turn told India to send a special plane to pick him up. “That a number of governments worked together to help India increases pressure on Pakistan,” says counter-terrorism expert Ajai Sahni.
That the two countries involved were ones Pakistan has seen as “allies” would be especially unnerving. Pakistan-based security analyst Talat Masood said the Saudi role was “significant” — Pakistani-Saudi security links were even closer than those Islamabad had with the US.
An Indian diplomat says Saudi-India counter-terrorism cooperation, once non-existent, has deepened considerably the past two years. This is partly driven by Saudi interest in India as a future oil client, Lashkar’s drift towards the anti-Saud Al Qaeda and US pressure.
Says a Washington-based LeT watcher: “There is a realisation in Washington that a key means to go after the LeT is to go through the Gulf.”
The other gain for India, if Jundal talks, is to provide evidence about the connections between the 26/11 attack, the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Pakistani state as a whole. “His confession would make it harder to deny the state links to the attack,” says a senior retired Indian intelligence officer. After all, Jundal was in the terrorist control room during 26/11, alongside senior Lashkar and ISI officers.
New Delhi can expect to throw any new evidence at Pakistan, pushing harder for action against the LeT perpetrators of 26/11, many of whom were arrested and then released, including Jundal. “He can be used to project our case, provide more hard evidence to Pakistan and the international community,” says Sahni.
(With inputs from Kamal Siddiqui in Karachi)