Journalist | Writer | Analyst
4 February 2009
Pranab, NSA sing different tunes on Pakistan investigation
New Delhi: Two days after National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan
said Pakistan had “reverted to us and asked a number of questions” on
the Mumbai terrorist attacks dossier, External Affairs minister Pranab
Mukherjee reiterated that India had received no “official
communication” from Islamabad “about the progress of the
investigations conducted by them” into the November 26-29 events.
Asked on Tuesday about Mr. Narayanan’s assertions to the contrary, the
minister said, “That he has stated in his own way.” India had been
informed by Pakistan about the receipt of the dossier, he said, but
“thereafter” there had been no word. Earlier, on Saturday, Mr.
Mukherjee had stressed the same point. “I would like to underline that
we have so far not received any official Pakistani response to the
Indian dossier or official information on the outcome of their
investigations. These are awaited”, a formal statement issued by him
Apart from disagreeing with each other on a point of fact, the
government’s top two officials dealing with Pakistan also appeared to
differ in their assessment of the seriousness with which the Pakistani
authorities are investigating the matter,
“Certainly they appear to be taking things seriously and at least they
are proceeding in a manner that one would expect an investigative
agency to proceed, asking queries and not taking everything that is
given at face value”, Mr. Narayanan told CNN-IBN on Saturday. “So as
far as we are concerned, we believe that Pakistan is making an attempt
to arrive at the truth”, he said, adding, “Whether after all this,
they would still accept the truth that will kind of hit them in the
face, that I don’t know.”
In contrast, by repeatedly saying that Pakistan had not yet responded
when two interim sets of questions had been received and when
Islamabad itself had said it was going to hand over the results of its
preliminary investigation soon, Mr. Mukherjee has painted a picture of
non-cooperation from the Pakistani side that is at variance with Mr.
Narayanan’s more generous characterization. [The world press has noted the NSA’s assessment that Pakistan was taking the probe ‘seriously’].
On Tuesday, South Block officials scrambled to reconcile these two
viewpoints, with some suggesting the minister and NSA were playing a
‘bad cop, good cop’ routine. Multiple assessments keep Pakistan
guessing about what India’s next move would be and could encourage
more cooperation from the Pakistani authorities in the terrorist
investigation, they said. In this telling, Mr. Mukherjee was
reiterating New Delhi’s traditionally negative expectations while Mr.
Narayanan’s comments were aimed at signaling to Islamabad that there
could be a positive pay-off to genuine cooperation.
But even so, officials had no explanation for why India would seek to
confuse its own public on the question of whether there has been any
interim official response from Pakistan to the Mumbai dossier or not.
“The factual position is what the minister has said”, a senior foreign
office official told The Hindu on condition of anonymity. “The MEA
statement on Saturday is categorical”. Asked about Mr. Narayanan’s
comments, the official claimed he had “not seen” the interview.
One clue to resolving this factual dissonance might lie in Mr.
Mukherjee’s use of the phrase ‘official communication’ when he said
Pakistan was yet to respond to India. According to a report on Tuesday
in the Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, India was channeling its
communication to Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency through the
U.S. FBI, whose investigators are also probing the Mumbai case. If
Pakistan was also routing its queries on the Indian dossier through
the FBI, the external affairs minister would be correct in saying
India had received no official word from Pakistan, but only in a
strictly literal sense. Or it could also mean the Indian intelligence
agencies – which report to the NSA – are handling the probe and any
technical queries springing from it on their own steam without
reference to the MEA.
However, an MEA official termed as “far-fetched’ all reports that
India was communicating with Pakistan through the FBI. “We communicate
directly, and that is what we did when we handed over the dossier.
Since then, we have heard nothing”.
Asked why Mr. Mukherjee was saying every day that India had not yet
received Pakistan’s findings into the Mumbai probe when the Pakistani
side itself had said it was still finalizing it, South Block officials
said the minister was barracked by TV cameras outside his office and
the only question they had was about the dossier. “Until Pakistan
actually sends its reply, I’m afraid this media silly season will
According to Dawn, FIA investigators are “closing in” on a “Bangladesh
connection” to the Mumbai attacks and suspect the involvement of the
Harkat-ul-Jihad-Islami Bangladesh (HUJI-B) as well as people in Dubai
and elements in India and are likely to “build the case for regional
anti-terror cooperation”. “The keenly awaited report is likely to say
that the Mumbai attack was the handiwork of an ‘international network
of Muslim fundamentalists’ present in South Asia and spreading all the
way to Middle East”, the newspaper said. Asked for his assessment of
the news report, a senior Indian official said it wouldn’t surprise
him if the FIA were to conclude the planning for Mumbai was by an
international network which just happened to be “everywhere but