DEFENCE MINISTER Pranab Mukherjee said the armed forces would conduct internal investigations to ascertain the extent of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) penetration into the Indian armed forces, and its likely impact. "It is a matter of concern that the ISI is trying to infiltrate and subvert our armed forces," Mukherjee told reporters on Monday on the sidelines of a function organised by the Indian Coast Guard.
Two armymen had been arrested on Friday by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police for allegedly passing on sensitive information to their Pakistani handlers.
Mukherjee's remarks come at a time when India and Pakistan are set to resume foreign secretary-level talks - suspended after the Mumbai blasts of July 11 - on November 13. Both sides are expected to discuss, among other things, the joint mechanism against terrorism agreed upon in Havana by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Amid widespread scepticism about the proposed mechanism, the prime minister had, at the Iftar party he hosted on Friday, linked his visit to Pakistan to the success of the mechanism. "Let us see how it works. I hope Pakistan is serious about it," Singh said.
The defence minister said investigations into the two cases had begun in earnest. The espionage rings linked Jammu and Kashmir to New Delhi and Kathmandu. "Our military as well as civilian intelligence outfits and investigating agencies have been pressed into action to bust the rings and find their kingpins," Mukherjee said.
There was no immediate reaction from Islamabad to Mukherjee's remarks about the ISI. However, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam has responded to National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan's statement on Sunday that India has "pretty good" evidence of Pakistan's involvement in the Mumbai blasts. Aslam told The Nation: "It is a propagandist statement as they have no evidence whatsoever."