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India, Pakistan spar over terror suspect’s claims

Does anybody still believe there’s anything to be gained through publicly announcing added evidence that Pakistan’s spy agency and perhaps other state forces allegedly played a role in the planning and execution of the November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai?  

Apparently. Or at least that’s what it seems like from the pronouncements by Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram over the past week or so — which began practically before police could get the cuffs on Zabiuddin Ansari, aka Abu Jundal.

So far, Chidambaram and other Indian officials have revealed that Ansari/Jundal has told interrogators that there were about 10 people in the Karachi “control room” that ran the Mumbai attacks by remote control. They’ve said Ansari/Jundal has admitted to guiding the attackers himself by telephone. And they’ve revealed that Ansari/Jundal told them that men who appeared to be officers in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were in the control room and helped a Lashkar-e-Taiba communications expert to set it up.  He also said that the room had at least four laptops with voice over internet protocol (VoIP) connects, though it foxes me why that’s important.

Has Pakistan suddenly ‘fessed up and offered to make some arrests, look at sketches of the two men in the control room who Ansari/Jundal says “looked like ISI officers” or offered to pay reparations for the lives lost in the attacks?  

Of course not. And the added “proof” — I’m not sure how reliable we should consider this guy, and so far we’re getting stuff second hand from interrogations rather than court testimony — hasn’t done much but sent India-Pakistan relations spiraling backward.

Chidambaram’s counterpart in Pakistan, Rehman Malik, has answered his every utterance with a (okay, not very convincing) denial. When Ansari/Jundal was first nabbed, reportedly thwarting Pakistani diplomatic efforts to get him spirited out of Saudi Arabia, Malik’s reaction was that he couldn’t be Pakistani if he was a criminal traveling on a stolen passport. (That Ansari/Jundal is an Indian citizen wasn’t at issue). A few days later he demanded that India apologize for sending a newly released prisoner to Pakistan to spy on its age-old enemy — 30 years ago!  

And in the latest response, Pakistani authorities claimed that there were at least 40 Indian nationals involved in the Mumbai attacks.

“Our information is that there were at least 40 Indian nationals who helped the attackers. We want India to come clean on this,” an unnamed official of Pakistan’s Foreign Office was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune, according to the HT

That may well be true. And if it is, maybe India would benefit from announcing it along with all the other revelations it’s unloading in real time from the interrogation cell. But it’s also a bit off-topic, if we’re talking about allegations that the ISI was driving the whole operation.

But the back and forth shows one thing for sure. If there was ever any hope that catching the Mumbai attackers would ease tensions between India and Pakistan, it’s dead and cremated now.

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