Is the unthinkable going to happen in India-Pakistan relations?
Reversing decades of policy, Pakistan’s civilian government announced on Friday afternoon that it would send Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, to India to help with the investigations into the terrorist strikes in Mumbai.
But, like everything else in India-Pakistan relations, there’s a twist in the tale. Late on Friday night, Pakistan’s military spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas, said no decision had been taken to send the ISI chief to New Delhi.
Abbas said the military would await a written letter from the civilian government, spelling out the exact scope and jurisdiction of the ISI chief’s visit. There have been tensions in the past between the civilian government and the army on who controls the ISI.
As Pakistan dilly-dallied, the Haaretz daily reported that Israel had sent a number of intelligence agents to India on Thursday to “assist in analyzing” the attacks.
“This is going to be a case which will need close coordination with all countries concerned," an official, who preferred anonymity, said, recalling how Indian sleuths had coordinated investigations into the hijacking of IC-814 aircraft in 1999 with the FBI.
“There has been no specific request yet to collaborate on the Mumbai attacks (from India), but the FBI is open to any support India might want,” an official at the US mission in Delhi said.
“He (Pasha) will be travelling to India soon. The decision to send him was taken following a request made by PM Manmohan Singh to PM Yusuf Raza Gilani,” a Pakistani official said by telephone from Islamabad. Zahid Bashir, Gilani’s spokesman, said: “This is a very positive development. My PM has directed me to make this statement to the press.”
A South Block official concurred: “This is a big development. Whether he is coming in response to an invitation or a summons is not important.”
In Mumbai, investigating agencies have extracted considerable information from one of the detained terrorists, Ajmad Mohammad, said to be a Pakistani national from Faridkot.
Singh told Gilani preliminary reports “point towards Karachi” and called for “increased intelligence sharing and cooperation”.
Earlier, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee suggested “some elements” in Pakistan were responsible for the terror strikes. Speaking in Jodhpur, he said Pakistan had to live up to promises made to India in 2004 and 2008 that it wouldn’t allow terrorists to use its soil for terrorist activities. He also called on Pakistan to dismantle the terror infrastructure. He argued that “outrages” like Mumbai and the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul make advances in India-Pakistan relations “impossible”.
Inputs from Aloke Tikku/Nandini R Iyer/Zia Haq