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India has ‘proof of ISI involvement’

Siddharth Varadarajan

But it is also wary of walking into trap of escalating hostility

New Delhi: India has proof of the involvement of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency in last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai but will not level a public accusation because the ensuing tension in bilateral relations would play into the hands of those responsible for the incidents, authoritative sources claimed here on Thursday.

Asked for the sort of proof linking the ISI to the attacks, the sources said investigators had “the names of the handlers and trainers, the locations where the training was held, and some of their communication through Voice over Internet Protocol have addresses that have been used by known ISI people before.”

The sources also clarified that contrary to media reports in India and Pakistan, the demarche which was handed over to the Pakistani side earlier this week did not contain the list of 20 most wanted terrorists that had first been given to Islamabad in 2000. Once the media started saying India was demanding the immediate handing over of the 20 fugitives, of course, the Government could hardly contradict these reports since their return has been a long-standing Indian demand, the sources added.

The demarche made only a pro forma reference to the return of unnamed fugitives but was otherwise exclusively focused on the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its leader Hafiz Saeed, whom New Delhi regards as the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror strikes.

The sources said that India did not believe the civilian government in Pakistan was involved in the incidents. Asked about the Pakistani Army chief’s potential role, they said it would be surprising if the ISI were able to operate without the military leadership’s knowledge.

Describing Pakistan as a country with a fragmented power structure, the sources said India’s response to what has happened in Mumbai could not be the same as in December 2001, when a terrorist attack on Parliament triggered the offensive deployment of troops on the border and the suspension or downgrading of transport and diplomatic links. “Then, we were dealing with one Pakistan. There was Musharraf and that was it. Today, the situation is different.”

The Pakistani Army would very much like a military crisis on the border with India because that would relieve the pressures it was facing on the Afghan front. “Our dilemma is that we don’t want to play their game — we want them to continue being engaged in the fight against terrorism in the west because that’s also our war. But we can’t give them a pass either. The perpetrators have to be fixed.”

It was because of this complexity, the sources added, that India’s public response has been very limited.

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