New Delhi: January 31, 2009 - Tension between India and Pakistan may flare up once again with India set to reject any claim by the latter that the Mumbai attacks were not planned from its territory.
Such a response would be completely unacceptable, sources said on Friday amid growing indications of Pakistan’s reluctance to accept that 26/11 was engineered by jihadi groups operating from its territory.
The declaration of intent followed the reported claim of Pakistan’s ambassador to the UK, Wahid Shamsul Hasan, that the Mumbai attacks were not planned in UK or Pakistan.
“Pakistan’s territory was not used so far as we know, so far as the investigators have made a conclusion. It could have been some other place but not the UK as well,” Hasan said.
Though his comment earned Hasan the displeasure of Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, the latter’s public snub to the envoy focused more on procedures than the substance of what he had said. “In fact, he can’t comment at the moment when the prime minister can’t comment. How can anybody comment? Because it is only the job of the interior ministry,” Gilani said in Davos.
That Pakistan was not yet ready to come out of denial had been indicated by Pakistani media for the past few days. Hasan’s comment — the first from a senior government functionary — served to confirm India’s fear that Pakistan’s recent show of reasonableness, including the promise to cooperate, could just be a ploy.
Asked to comment, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee refused to react to news reports. “Till now, we have not received any information from Pakistan. Whatever we are hearing like you is through the media. This is not the way a government can respond,” he said.
He, however, made it plain that there was no change in India’s bottomline. “We expect them (Pakistan) to investigate and let us know the outcome of that investigation,” the foreign minister said.
Gilani’s rebuke to the Pakistani ambassador to the UK was a replay of the Mahmud Durrani episode. Pakistan’s former national security advisor had to go because he prematurely disclosed Islamabad’s hand on India’s demand for action against the 26/11 perpetrators.
Once again, Gilani’s public criticism is being seen as pointing to both the possibility of his being out of the loop, and a tussle within the Pakistani establishment on what the response to India should be.
Pakistani TV channels said that their reports about Pakistan’s denial were based on the preliminary report of the interior ministry.
In Islamabad, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the report was going through the law ministry and would be sent to the foreign office “soon”.
After watching Pakistan go through hoops over the past few days, India is increasingly coming to the conclusion that very little in terms of a substantive response can be expected. “What we have seen over the past few days is not encouraging,” a source said.
Ultimately, the problem is becoming concentrated within Pakistan itself, as it becomes clear to India that there is no real government there to work with.
However, India recognises that it might be difficult for Pakistan to “come clean” as this would expose the link between ISI and groups like the LeT. Therefore, they are prepared for a certain degree of “fudging” by Pakistan, including a bureaucratic response consisting of more questions.