New Delhi: The Union government has begun to grapple with the problem of how to send a tough message to Pakistan over the Mumbai attacks without escalating tensions to such a level that it could be accused of preparing for war.
Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected national security adviser M.K. Narayanan’s offer of resignation as he was key to the Mumbai terror investigation, according to a Congress party leader, who didn’t want to be named, the government was preparing to request the US to help mount pressure on Pakistan to cooperate with Delhi.
Singh spoke on the phone with US President George W. Bush, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. Bush had been expected to reiterate Washington’s willingness to extend all the help Delhi needed and note that a team from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation was already in Mumbai in this regard.
A Western diplomat pointed out that India had a “big opportunity” to allow Western security agencies to share both information and access to the investigation, considering the number of foreigners who had died. “That way, if there is evidence to nail Pakistan, it could be independently corroborated by Western agencies,” the diplomat said.
But it seemed as if Delhi was already readying itself to ask the US to do more. Namely, in the wake of an about-turn on the part of the civilian Pakistan leadership on sending the director general of Pakistan’s intelligence agency to Delhi, Washington could put pressure on the “real power centre in Pakistan, the army, to begin some sort of cooperation with India”, said a government official who didn’t want to be named.
It is also expected that foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, who was leaving for the US Sunday night on a pre-arranged visit, during which he is expected to meet his counterpart undersecretary of state William Burns, would use the new circumstances to present some of the evidence Delhi has gathered on the attacks. “The statements of support by Western governments should be translated into action. We would expect them to do that,” the government official added.
But even as security teams from the US and Israel in Mumbai wait for access to the scenes of the crimes as well as to the bodies of their nationals (six Americans and five Israelis, among others), concerns that Pakistan could dodge American attempts to cooperate with India are growing.
Vikram Sood, a former chief of India’s external intelligence service Research and Analysis Wing and currently an analyst at the Observer Research Foundation, said the refusal by the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) to send its director general to Delhi, as promised by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, was “only an indication that the Pakistan army still runs the show in Pakistan”.
“The political establishment is a nonentity. As far as India is concerned, nothing has changed,” Sood said.
Strategic affairs analyst K. Subrahmanyam said there was a real danger that the Pakistan army could cite growing tensions with India to move some of its forces currently fighting the Taliban and the Al Qaeda in the western borderlands to the eastern border with India.
“Senator (Barack) Obama has already demanded action on the western front, but the Pakistanis could easily tell the Americans that we can’t continue the fight against terror with the same intensity,” Subrahmanyam said.
He agreed that Delhi was in a real dilemma, especially as the Americans could hardly afford to jeopardize the war against the Taliban-Al Qaeda. However, he added, “if the Indians have transcripts detailing Pakistan’s involvement, whether they are rogue groups or linked to the ISI, then Western agencies will definitely have the same information”.
Meanwhile, the Congress party leader pointed out that notwithstanding the apparent tussle for power in Pakistan, between President Asif Ali Zardari’s political leadership and the army, India’s options on how to deal with terror were also limited.
“The government may well create a federal investigative agency that coordinates information, but the intractable question is what to do with Pakistan? The PM will not accept any belligerent ideas, he certainly does not want India to repeat Operation Parakram (when the armies of India and Pakistan confronted each other for nine months after the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001). Question is, what should India do?” the Congress party politician asked.
He went on to answer his own question. “Unless the big Western powers are on board, India won’t be able to do much on its own.”