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Terror finger points at Pak army

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By SUJAN DUTTA in Delhi
  • Published 20.12.08
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New Delhi, Dec. 20: The Centre is now viewing the Mumbai attacks as the direct handiwork of Pakistan’s military that trained and armed the militants and planned the strike in detail, top government sources are saying.

This is a shift from India’s initial response when foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee led the government in drawing a distinction at two levels — first, between the government in Islamabad and rabid “elements in Pakistan” and, second, between the civilian administration led by Asif Zardari and the military led by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

India’s security establishment has also begun a series of high-level meetings to review the state of defence preparedness. There are concerns that the military’s inventory is wanting. In one of the meetings today, defence minister A.K. Antony authorised a fast-track procurement of equipment for the coast guard.

The nuanced change in Delhi’s views follows the interrogation of gunman Mohammed Ajmal, an analysis of the attack by ballistics specialists in the military and the conclusion that the attackers were trained professionally.

Mukherjee today said the attack was planned meticulously and that Ajmal had given a “chilling account” of who his handlers and trainers were. “This was cold and calculated murder. One of the terrorists, who has been captured alive, has given us a chilling account of his handlers. A few months earlier, the Indian embassy in Kabul was the target of a terrorist attack. The impunity with which these attacks are carried out is possible only because the safety of the handlers has been assured,” he said.

Mukherjee began signalling the change in stand from Friday. “The Mumbai terrorist attack is the latest instance of how sub-regionalism, regionalism and multilateralism are threatened by non-state actors with the aid of para-state apparatus. In the face of the gravest of provocation, perhaps the time has come now to fine-tune India’s priorities,” he had said.

“Para-state apparatus” is a phrase usually adopted by military and espionage agencies to argue that non-state actors operate with the support and shelter of a state but ensure that the links are deniable.

In Delhi, the suspicion that Pakistan’s military and Kayani knew of the attack even if he did not authorise it, is being strengthened. Officials cite a New York Times report that quoted CIA analysts as saying Kayani had prior knowledge of the Kabul attack.

In India, the military has almost always argued that militants based out of Pakistan are actively supported by the Pakistan army. Most recently, it cited the ceasefire violations across the LoC this year when gunmen in civilian clothes near Pakistani army pickets fired at Indian positions.

Naval commandos and the army-staffed Special Action Group of the National Security Guard, who led the counter-terrorist operation in Mumbai, have pointed to the dexterity with which the attackers handled their weapons and used their ammunition.

The Indian Army believes such terror outfits cannot be curbed unless the Pakistani military’s war-waging potential is severely damaged. Delhi is now closer to this view than it was immediately after the attacks. But the Centre wants to convert the global sympathy for India into support.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mukherjee are likely to meet heads of Indian missions early next week in Delhi. Already, the government has shared information on the investigations with the heads of 13 missions of countries whose nationals were killed in the attacks.

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice today said the steps taken by Pakistan were “not nearly enough” and asked it to keep on working to “really deal” with terrorism to help ease the “crisis” with India, PTI reported from Washington.