July 14: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today linked Mumbai’s serial blasts that killed over 200 people to “elements across the border”, dropping the caution officially exercised by the government over the past couple of days in not bringing Pakistan in.
On his trip to Mumbai, Singh did not name Pakistan but left little doubt who he was referring to when he said the blasts were carried out by terror modules “instigated, inspired and supported by elements across the border”.
Singh signalled that India was putting the brakes on the peace talks with Islamabad.
“I have explained to the government of Pakistan at the highest level that if the acts of terrorism are not controlled, it is exceedingly difficult for any government (in India) to carry forward what may be called the normalisation or the peace process.”
Pakistan rejected as “unsubstantiated allegations” the Prime Minister’s statement that the train bombers had support from across the border.
“These allegations are unsubstantiated, we have already rejected them,” foreign office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.
Till yesterday, unnamed official sources had drawn the Pakistan link. Today, the innuendos were given official sanction.
The Mumbai blasts came on top of a series of attacks in Kashmir, even on tourists, leading to a hardening of New Delhi’s diplomatic and political stand, which was reflected in the Prime Minister’s statements.
“Just as things can never be the same for those who have lost their near and dear, it cannot be business as usual for us. We have to ponder over this and act on credible strategy,” he said. The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet on July 21. The possibility of that happening now looks increasingly dim.
The Prime Minister’s response after visiting the injured of the blasts at Sion and KEM Hospital immediately addresses a big question of the Mumbaikar: Why should India talk to Pakistan when it encourages terrorism'
But few in Mumbai read much into the Prime Minister’s remarks. “What’s new'” asked commuter Sanjay Nair. “Isn’t it always Pakistan'”
Singh said the support for terrorism in India continued despite General Pervez Musharraf’s promise in 2004 to act against militants.
The Prime Minister presented an uncharacteristically resolute persona shortly after being moved to tears in the hospitals. At one hospital, an injured primary school teacher stood up painfully to salute him.
“We must recognise that terrorists are trying to spread their tentacles across the country. Terror modules exist in Mumbai and in many other parts of the country. We have credible information to this effect. We are also certain that these terror modules are instigated, inspired and supported by elements across the border without which they cannot act with such devastating effect,” he said.
The Prime Minister said stringent public security measures were being implemented. India is set to buy and install screening equipment in public spaces across its cities. He said the police and security agencies were urged “to have their ears to the ground and detect any anti-national activity”.
Upgraded technology for surveillance and access control systems will be in place for “vital installations and high profile targets”, he said.
In a ward in KEM Hospital, a blast victim asked him: “Will I be safe when I go back home'” The Prime Minister replied: “Yes, you will.”
It’s going to be a tough promise to keep.