India has “credible information” of plans by terrorist groups in Pakistan to carry out attacks in India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a conference of chief ministers on internal security on Monday.
This was the first time after the controversial joint statement in Sharm El-Sheikh, which de-linked talks between the two countries from anti-terror action by Pakistan, that Singh was attacking Islamabad on terrorism.
Singh had also skipped any reference to Pakistan in his Independence Day address. But on Monday, Singh made it clear that the threat from groups in Pakistan had not abated. And that Pakistan was not off the hook as far he was concerned.
“Cross-border terrorism remains the most pervasive threat,” he told the chief ministers, adding there was a surge in infiltration this year.
He agreed with Home Minister P. Chidambaram that India could not lower its guard.
Better intelligence and better preparedness had helped thwart potential terror attacks, said Chidambaram, but “it does not mean that the threat of terror has vanished or receded”.
Within hours, the BJP pounced on Singh.
BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters in Visakhapatnam India should withdraw from the joint statement. In Delhi, spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said a serious question arose over the joint statement in view of Singh’s remarks.
The BJP had walked out of Lok Sabha during a debate on the joint statement in the last session accusing the Manmohan Singh government of giving away too much to Pakistan.
The home minister, however, explained that Singh’s usage of “credible information” did not mean there was a specific threat of an imminent attack. But that there are terrorists groups plotting to attack.
On his part, Singh acknowledged “disturbing trends” in Jammu and Kashmir despite the low violence profile. He said there been a surge in infiltrations, by people who “appear more battle-hardened, better equipped and in possession of sophisticated communications.”
Security agencies in Kashmir say infiltrators detected this year were found equipped with global positioning systems, satellite phones and no longer depended on radio communications that was easily intercepted.
“Besides, they are also much better trained, like the ones who carried out the Mumbai attacks,” an intelligence officer said.
Intelligence agencies estimate nearly 200 terrorists have infiltrated into India already this year as against 342 in all of 2008, many of them worryingly during the winter months when infiltration usually dips due to snow.