You don't mess with the ISI and expect friendship

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Islamabad, July 15 (ANI): Mr. G.K. Pillai isn't here, but he might as well be.

The Indian Home Secretary's comment on the eve of Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's visit to Islamabad yesterday on the ISI's (Pakistan's intelligence agency) pro-active role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks came as a surprise to the Pakistani Foreign Office establishment.

They seemed to be more offended about the timing and the manner of the leak of this information, rather than the content itself.

Mr. Pillai had said that the evidence against the ISI emerged from the interrogation by Indian officials of a Chicago man, David Headley, who pleaded guilty to working with the Lashkar-e-Taiba to plan the attacks.

Mr. Pillai had said: "It was not just a peripheral role...they (ISI) were literally controlling and coordinating it from the beginning till the end."The Pakistani Foreign Office is furious with the comment. They would have preferred this information to be shared with them during the foreign ministerial-level talks.

Speaking on background, they say this statement was mistimed and has shrunk the maneuverability for further talks.

It is a well-known fact that the Army and the ISI are extremely powerful pillars in the Pakistani establishment, and that they call the shots when it comes to foreign affairs, especially Pakistan-India relations.

Angered by the statement, Shireen Mazari of The Nation dismissed the foreign ministerial talks as "the new drama India has now instituted of holding high profile, but meaningless meetings to ascertain how the substantive dialogue can begin between the two sides."

She even recommends, "It may have served Pakistan's interests better to opt out of such meetings even if it means little less elite socialising for all concerned."The Dawn also does not peg much hope on the India-Pakistan dialogue process, saying, "a dramatic turnaround in the knotty relations were rather slim, and both, could at best agree on a schedule of meetings of officials to sustain the process of engagements."

That is perhaps the most ambitious expectation on this side of the Jhelum too. The Indian side has also not gone beyond stating that they are willing to discuss issues and move the process of re-engagement forward.However, what has cast a shadow on the process of trust building, is the Indian comment on the ISI's active involvement in 26/11, and the rally held by Syed Salahuddin (Hizbul Mujahideen) in Muzzafarabad, in 'Azad Kashmir', a few days ago where he said "Holy war is the only solution to our problem...it is mandatory for every child in every street to wage war against India to bring it down to its knees."

Also present at the rally organized by the United Jihad Council, a coalition of 12 anti-India militant groups, was the Prime Minister of 'Azad Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider Khan, who rousing the crowd at the rally said, "Let me assure you that every home in Kashmir will become a bunker against India."

Journalists who have covered India-Pakistan issues say that unless both Salahuddin and Raja Farooq had got clearance from the ISI, they would not have dared to make such inflammatory remarks.A country's intelligence organization is its pride. In Pakistan it is the driving force of the government.

No elected government can take any bold step in forging friendship with India without the tacit support from ISI.

The Director General of the ISI, Lt. Gen. Shuja Ahmed Pasha, recently told the Parliamentary Committee on National Security that foreign powers were trying to destabilise Pakistan by sponsoring terrorist acts. He clearly didn't mean Australia!

The deep-rooted animosity between the intelligence agencies in India and Pakistan will keep in check any bold measures that the foreign offices of the two countries would want to take. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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