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You don't mess with the ISI and expect friendship

Last updated on: July 15, 2010 13:06 IST

Why the Pakistanis lost their cool

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Smita Prakash in Islamabad

Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai is not in Islamabad, but he might as well be. Pillai's comments ahead of External Affairs Minister SM Krishna's trip to Islamabad on Wednesday on Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI's pro-active role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks came as a surprise to the Pakistani Foreign Office establishment.

They seemed to be more offended about the timing and the manner of the leak of this information, rather than the content itself.

Pillai had said that the evidence against the ISI emerged from the interrogation by Indian officials of a Chicago man, David Headley, who pleaded guilty to working with the Lashkar-e-Taiba to plan the attacks.

Pillai had said: "It was not just a peripheral role... they (ISI) were literally controlling and coordinating it from the beginning till the end."


Photographs: Reuters
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'High profile, but meaningless meetings'

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The Pakistani Foreign Office is furious. They would have preferred this information to be shared with them during the foreign ministerial-level talks.

Speaking on background, they say that this statement was mistimed and has shrunk the manoeuvrability for further talks.

It is a well-known fact that the Army and the ISI are extremely powerful pillars in the Pakistani establishment, and that they call the shots when it comes to foreign affairs, especially Pakistan-India relations.

Angered by the statement, Shireen Mazari of The Nation dismissed the foreign ministerial talks as 'the new drama India has now instituted of holding high profile, but meaningless meetings to ascertain how the substantive dialogue can begin between the two sides'.



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'Pak must opt out of such meetings'

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Mazari even recommends, 'It may have served Pakistan's interests better to opt out of such meetings even if it means little less elite socialising for all concerned.'
 
The Dawn also does not peg much hope on the India-Pakistan dialogue process, saying, 'A dramatic turnaround in the knotty relations were rather slim, and both, could at best agree on a schedule of meetings of officials to sustain the process of engagements.'

That is perhaps the most ambitious expectation on this side of the Jhelum too.

The Indian side has also not gone beyond stating that they are willing to discuss issues and move the process of re-engagement forward.


Image: A soldier surveys a wooden bridge, which has many of its planks missing, that connects Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan occupied Kashmir

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Salahuddin shadows trust-building effort

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However, what has cast a shadow on the process of trust building, is the India's comment on the ISI's active involvement in 26/11, and the rally held by Syed Salahuddin (Hizbul Mujahideen chief) in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a few days ago where he said: 'Holy war is the only solution to our problem... it is mandatory for every child in every street to wage war against India to bring it down to its knees.'

Also present at the rally organised by the United Jihad Council, a coalition of 12 anti-India terrorist groups, was PoK prime minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan, who retorted: 'Let me assure you that every home in Kashmir will become a bunker against India.'

Journalists who have covered India-Pakistan issues say that unless both Salahuddin and Raja Farooq had got clearance from the ISI, they would not have dared to make such inflammatory remarks.


Image: Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin

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You don't mess with the ISI and expect friendship

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A country's intelligence organization is its pride. In Pakistan, it is the driving force of the government. No elected government can take any bold step in forging friendship with India without the tacit support from ISI.

The Director General of the ISI, Lt Gen Shuja Ahmed Pasha, recently told the Parliamentary Committee on National Security that foreign powers were trying to destabilise Pakistan by sponsoring terrorist acts. He clearly didn't mean Australia!

The deep-rooted animosity between the intelligence agencies in India and Pakistan will keep in check any bold measures that the foreign offices of the two countries would want to take.


Image: File photo shows an army officer outlines Pakistani positions along the border with India

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Source: ANI