New Delhi, Aug. 20: The home ministry’s allegation about a Pakistani role behind the Bangalore exodus has highlighted the communication gap between two wings of the Indian government.
External affairs minister S.M. Krishna and his officials are believed to be upset at being kept in the dark over the purported evidence about Internet uploads from Pakistan that are being blamed for spreading panic.
According to home secretary R.K. Singh, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde mentioned the matter to his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik yesterday and promised to provide evidence.
Sources said South Block was particularly peeved that the matter, which has a bearing on bilateral relations, was made public without consulting it. Krishna has assigned foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai to bridge the communication gap between the two ministries, the sources added.
South Block is worried also about the timing of the home ministry’s revelations, fearing the matter will overshadow Krishna’s visit to Islamabad for talks with the Pakistan foreign minister next month.
“There is no consultation mechanism and no unified policy between the foreign and home ministries on handling such issues. It’s as though the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing,” complained a foreign ministry source.
He added that it had become as important to have a “hotline” between India’s home and foreign secretaries as to have one between the two countries’ Prime Ministers and senior army officers.
A foreign ministry official said “blaming Islamabad has exposed our chinks”. The home ministry’s assessment was akin to admitting that all it takes to throw a big country such as India into turmoil are some “morphed images”, the official added.
South Block officials say the home ministry may have again somewhat derailed the India-Pakistan dialogue with its accusations, after four years of hard work by Indian diplomats had pushed Pakistan into a corner over the 2008 Mumbai attack.
“This (the uploads) wasn’t a recent development. We first failed to detect them and then failed to take any steps to prevent the exodus. Now the home ministry is blaming Pakistan to cover its failure,” a source said. “Before the international community, we would come across as a country that accuses Pakistan for everything that goes wrong inside our territory.”
The unilateral nature of the home ministry’s announcement yesterday was consistent with the way it has, during the tenure of UPA II, repeatedly called the shots on India’s relations with Pakistan. Under Shinde, it seems to be continuing with what it often did during P. Chidambaram’s stint as home minister.
The tension between the two ministries has a history. In July 2010, then home secretary G.K. Pillai had accused Pakistani spy agency ISI of terrorist links barely a day before Krishna landed in Islamabad for talks with then Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Qureshi brought up Pillai’s statements at a joint news conference, which wrecked the talks. Krishna returned empty-handed from a visit that was expected to achieve concrete steps towards a thaw.
Krishna later criticised Pillai’s comments as “ill-timed” but Chidambaram defended his home secretary.
The recent arrest of 26/11 operative Abu Jundal, too, led to heartburn in South Block. The foreign ministry believes that the home ministry failed to give it and its officials due credit for having effected the operation seamlessly.
A year ago, the two ministries had disagreed over the China policy. South Block had resented the home ministry’s “alarmist” statements on China and its refusal to grant visas to Chinese journalists. Eventually, the Prime Minister’s Office brokered a truce with a rebuke to the home ministry.