Mumbai, Kabul show safety of handlers was assured: India


New Delhi : Stepping up pressure on Pakistan, Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Saturday said the “cold and calculated murders” in Mumbai and Kabul showed that such attacks could be carried out only because the “safety of the handlers was assured”.

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Although he did not point a finger directly at Pakistan, the minister said that Muhammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab, the lone Mumbai attacker who was caught, had given a “chilling account” of who his “outside” handlers and trainers were.

“Across the globe, the faces of the terrorists have been seen,” Mukherjee said at a panel discussion on a “Vision for South Asia” at India Habitat Centre here.

“The deaths of the innocent people, the wanton loss of life and property, were not accidental or unintended as is sometimes referred to as collateral damage. On the other hand, this was cold and calculated murder,” he said.

“One of the terrorists, who has been captured alive has given us chilling accounts of his handlers,” he said.

He was referring to the findings of Indian intelligence agencies, who are finalising the list of handlers in Pakistan spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) who allegedly trained the perpetrators of the Nov 26 Mumbai carnage.

“A few months earlier, the Indian embassy in Kabul was the target of a terrorist attack,” he said.

“The impunity with which these attacks are carried out is possible only because of the safety the handlers have been assured,” he said. He also stressed that as long as such terror attacks continue, “we will remain mired in the ‘old’ South Asia”.

Alluding to the widely acknowledged clout of the military establishment in Pakistan, Mukherjee said genuine democracy does not come about simply by holding an election but rather through a process of democratisation that makes elected representatives accountable and also ensuring that there was no “de facto centre of power” that is actually “pulling the puppet strings”.

“The pretence of democracy is not equivalent to democratisation,” Mukherjee said.

The minister stressed that India would not like to advocate how other countries should be governed, but would certainly like to know “whom we should deal with vis-a-vis another government; in other words, who runs the show”.

The remarks underscored India’s growing anger at the string of denials and diversionary tactics that are resorted to by the civilian government in Islamabad in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

Mukherjee’s remarks came a day after former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif admitted that Kasab indeed belongs to Pakistan’s Punjab province, as has been maintained by India.

The official Pakistani version of Kasab’s antecedents has been a flip-flop. After first demanding evidence to establish his Pakistan links, Islamabad said outright that he was not a Pakistani.

Mukherjee’s remarks also came amid reports that India may launch military strikes in Pakistan-administered Kashmir as well as other places in Pakistan.

In a report, global intelligence service Stratfor said: “Indian military operations against targets in Pakistan have, in fact, been prepared and await the signal to go forward.”

Mukherjee had Friday made it clear that India was obliged to “consider the entire range of options that exist” with the failure of Pakistan to deliver on its promise of not supporting terror activities on its soil.

At least 170 people were killed and nearly 300 injured in last month’s terror attacks on Mumbai.

If Pakistan cannot keep the promises made to India on not supporting terrorist activities, India would be obliged to “consider the entire range of options that exist” to protect itself, Mukherjee said in a statement released in Gangtok Friday.

“Terrorism remains a scourge for our region. If a country cannot keep the assurances that it has given, then it obliges us to consider the entire range of options that exist to protect our interests and people from this menace,” he maintained.

“We have made repeated appeals to our neighbours over the years to ensure that they do not provide support to terrorist activities and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure… but our pleas have been ignored in spite of assurances given by them,” the minister said.