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Pak sends a message via Kabul bomber

Pak sends a message via Kabul bomber

Author: K.P. NAYAR
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: October 9, 2009
URL: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1091009/jsp/frontpage/story_11594748.jsp

Attacks, outside and inside

A powerful but fortuitously aborted attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul today was Pakistan's message to India that its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) can hit Indian interests anytime, anywhere with impunity.

It came exactly four days after Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who has stayed back in the US after his testy meeting with external affairs minister S.M. Krishna in New York on September 27, publicly warned that Indians "have to justify their interest" in Kabul.

Qureshi concluded his US tour with a meeting with secretary of state Hillary Clinton at the same time terrorists in Kabul were preparing to drive out the explosives-packed sports utility vehicle to be detonated near the side wall of the embassy today. At least 17 people, mostly bystanders, were killed and three Indian embassy guards injured in the explosion.

In his blunt public warning four days ago, Qureshi said India's "level of engagement (in Kabul) has to be commensurate with" the fact that "they do not share a border with Afghanistan, whereas we do.… If there is no massive reconstruction (in Afghanistan), if there are not long queues in Delhi waiting for visas to travel to Kabul, why do you have such a large (Indian) presence in Afghanistan? At times it concerns us," Qureshi told the Los Angles Times.

The second suicide attack on the Indian mission in Kabul in 15 months will strengthen a partisan view at the CGO Complex off New Delhi's Lodhi Road, the seat of India's external intelligence agency, that the terrorist attack on Mumbai last November was actually Pakistan's answer to India for regressing on the progress made over several years towards resolving Kashmir in detailed talks with General Pervez Musharraf, both by the NDA and UPA governments.

Such a view is based on an assessment that Pakistan considerably dismantled its terrorist infrastructure against India, particularly across the Line of Control in Kashmir, during the Musharraf years, but has not been rewarded in any significant way by the political process in New Delhi aimed at redressing Islamabad's perceived grievances on bilateral relations.

Between November last year and now, the establishment at the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and elements in the Prime Minister's Office and the cabinet secretariat with intelligence backgrounds have strenuously tried to put the lid on this view, which has serious ramifications for New Delhi's Pakistan policy.

Today's attack in Kabul will, however, reinforce this view, albeit in whispers in intelligence circles. Because it has come 10 days after Krishna took a tough line at his meeting with Qureshi, the suicide bombing will be seen as a warning to India not to go back, once again, on the process started by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart in Sharm-el-Sheikh in July to restart their bilateral dialogue.

Pakistan clearly sees Krishna's stand at his meeting with Qureshi as tantamount to rolling back the Sharm-el-Sheikh process.

When Qureshi emerged with Clinton yesterday to speak to reporters, he was almost fatalistic about India and had low expectations. "The meeting that I had with Mr Krishna... was, in my view, a positive meeting, a constructive meeting. And being a politician, I can read between the lines and I can tell you I got positive vibes, because my message was positive, my engagement was positive, my intentions are positive.... Obviously, he is going to go back and consult with the leadership in Delhi and we will take it from there. But I have suggested a way forward."

The attack in Kabul, which has all the hallmarks of an ISI-inspired plot, is also a warning to Pakistan's civilian leadership not to compromise its interests in Afghanistan and in bilateral relations with India amid signs of a deterioration in cordiality between the Pakistan army and the government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

The attack was executed a day after foreign secretary Nirupama Rao made a policy speech on Afghanistan at a meeting in New Delhi outlining India's priorities in Kabul.

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