General in the line of fire

The confident assertion by the Mumbai police that they have completed their investigations into the July 11 serial blasts that racked the city and that there is credible forensic evidence to indict the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI, has grave ramifications for the delicately poised India-Pakistan relationship. In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai blasts, the impending foreign secretary level talks had been postponed and it took the Havana meeting of September 16 for the two countries to agree to resume their composite dialogue. However, the current assertion by the Mumbai police identifying Pakistan's ISI as the brain behind the terrorist attack is the equivalent of placing the skunk in the Indo-Pak air-conditioner.

Predictably, the Pakistan foreign office has dismissed the claims of the Mumbai police. This was both hasty and unwarranted for Delhi has not made any formal contact with Islamabad in the matter. The Mumbai police was carrying out a domestic activity namely, informing the public about the progress in an important case. Clearly, this evidence will have to be presented to a court of law for the judicial veracity to be established. One presumes this will not take the meandering 13 years that the 1993 Mumbai attacks did.

But it is the spirit of Havana that is now under scrutiny and attack. There is a strongly held view in many quarters in India that neither Musharraf nor the ISI can be trusted to deliver on the commitments made in January 2004 namely, to desist from supporting terrorism directed against India and that the Mumbai police have only proved what is an article of faith about the ISI's perfidy. The extrapolation is that any suggestion that India and Pakistan can engage meaningfully in joint anti-terrorism initiatives as mooted in Havana is a pipe-dream.

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