Foreign tourists look at the ravaged German Bakery from a nearby building in Pune on Monday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Feb. 15: The cabinet committee on security (CCS) today put its stamp of approval on the foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan, but with a rider — another terror strike will force New Delhi to abort the February 25 meeting.
Sources said the cabinet reviewed the security scenario in the wake of Saturdays blast, progress in the investigations and the proposed talks with Pakistan. I briefed the CCS on the Pune blasts, home minister P. Chidambaram said after the meeting, but refused to elaborate.
The sources later confirmed that the talks were on course and that the cabinet decided in favour of going ahead with the meeting. It was also agreed that any future attack like the one in Pune would make it difficult for India to continue with the parleys.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presided over the hour-long meeting, along with senior cabinet colleagues Chidambaram, Pranab Mukherjee, S.M. Krishna and A.K. Antony. National security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and Union home secretary G.K. Pillai were also present.
The decision to go ahead with the Pakistan talks came on a day Pune blast investigators had an ominous signal — the near absence of chatter on known phone and Internet lines used by terror groups from across the border.
The lines, monitored by Indian and western intelligence agencies, such as the FBI, have gone quiet in the last three to four days — a silence that in the past had brought bad news in the shape of more strikes.
Home secretary Pillai said it was being probed whether the Indian Mujahideen and the Lashkar played a role.
Pillai more or less confirmed a role from across the border but stopped short of identifying suspects and refrained from blaming Pakistan.
I think there is no doubt that all these activities are masterminded from across the border. But in so far as the Pune blast is concerned, I will have to wait for the investigations to reveal the details, Pillai said.
Later, speaking about the Indian Mujahideen, Pillai said he could not rule out the presence of the outfits modules. We have destroyed several IM modules. There was an effort to revive some of the sleeper modules but as we understand, the situation is under control.
Pillai suggested that Indian sympathisers were being trained across the border and sent back to India. Indian sympathisers are being taken to Pakistan, trained and indoctrinated and sent back to India so they (outfits in Pakistan) can say the attack has been carried out by Indians, not Pakistanis. Investigations (into the Pune explosion) have just started and it will take time to find out which groups were involved, he said.
The home ministry had earlier sent alerts and ordered increased security of all places that Lashkar operative David Coleman Headley, in the custody of the US, had surveyed, he said. Pune was one of the places he visited.
The ministry has also alerted Delhi police in view of the Hockey World Cup from February 28 to March 13.
Investigators are looking at the possibility of the Pune blast being a retaliatory strike against the death sentence on Aftab Ansari, the mastermind of the attack outside Calcuttas American Center. The death penalty was recently upheld by the high court. Pillai said investigators were working on this and other theories.
The forensic report on the explosives is expected tomorrow.