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Back to square one

Back to square one

Author: Saurabh Shukla
Publication: India Today
Date: February 18, 2008
URL: http://indiatoday.digitaltoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&&issueid=39&id=4339&Itemid=1&page=in&latn=2

Introduction: Pakistan's continued harbouring of hijackers and fugitives wanted by India besides again broadcasting aggressive anti-India propaganda has increased tension between the two countries

With the Indo-Pakistan peace process grinding to a halt following political instability in Pakistan, the incremental gains of the composite dialogue process, to discuss crossborder terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir and other issues, seem to be lost and the trust deficit is widening with Pakistan's vitriolic anti-India propaganda on the rise.

What has made reconciliation difficult is Pakistan's continued support to crossborder terror against India. Take the case of the hijack of IC-814 to Kandahar in December 1999.

While the minor conspirators were sentenced to life imprisonment by an Indian court on February 5, New Delhi is upset that the main culprits are still at large in Pakistan.

Many others on India's list of 40 fugitives, including three terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Umar Syed, who later killed American journalist Daniel Pearl, continue to be in Pakistan.

But pleas for their extradition, despite Interpol redcorner notices, have been ignored by Islamabad, in clear violation of the Montreal and Hague conventions, besides the SAARC convention on suppression of terrorism.

Two months back, the heavilyguarded residence of Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal was broken into by suspected operatives from Pakistani intelligence agency ISI while he was away in Karachi.

Though none of the valuables were touched, what was earlier dubbed as a simple burglary has turned out to be a well planned intelligence coup. South Block is worried that the Pakistani intelligence may have got its hands on a treasure trove of sensitive information contained in Pal's stolen laptop.

This has led to fears that some key Indian assets may have been compromised. The high commissioner's residence in Islamabad's high security G-6 locality was also manned by Pakistani security guards.

The fact that the intruders chose to take away only his briefcase and laptop made it look suspicious. Although both sides have maintained silence on the issue, the security breach has vitiated the atmosphere.

South Block insiders say it appears that the break-in was pre-planned and the agency may have been tipped off that the envoy used his laptop for secure communication.

Officials maintain that in a sensitive diplomatic station like Islamabad, it seems that standard security procedures, like keeping the laptop in a secure place, were not followed, but the fact that the Pakistani intelligence agency managed to mount a daring operation during Emergency, proves that it had the sanction of the top brass of the ISI which functions under the direct control of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

Tension has been simmering for a while and close on the heels of the break-in New Delhi also lodged another protest with Islamabad.

This time the accusation was that Radio Pakistan had increased its anti-India propaganda and its Lahore station was airing a programme Punjabi Durbar which is exhorting the Sikhs to revive their demand for Khalistan.

"All this is part of a well orchestrated strategy by the ISI to foment communal trouble in India and intelligence reports suggest that Sikh militants are being told to revive the Khalistan issue," remarked a South Block source.

Sample a recent broadcast on Punjabi Durbar: "The Indian Government has failed to provide justice and job opportunities leading to the mushrooming of fraud deras in Punjab… a number of deras have been set up in Punjab to misguide the people and interfere in the religions of certain communities. Baba Ram Rahim Singh, of religious sect Sacha Sauda has been sponsored by official Indian agencies to misguide people."

This was aired shortly before a bomb blast targeted the Baba's convoy in February.

Another programme on Lahore I station, the official broadcaster of Pakistan, said: "Brahmin-dominated Hindu imperialistic powers at Delhi have launched a campaign to weaken Sikhism and its culture in Punjab. There is a conspiracy under which Sikh youths are encouraged to leave the religion and take to intoxicants."

Punjabi Durbar, on another occasion said, "The Sikh Panth has to take its own care and there is a dire need of creating Khalistan where the religion and culture of Sikhs may flourish."

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