To distract Islamabad's attention from its campaign against al-Qaeda, wrote murdered Pakistan journalist

Ilyas Kashmiri, who had a pathological hatred for India and a long history of launching cross-border terror attacks, had in recent years become obsessed with the idea of provoking a war between India and Pakistan in order to distract Pakistan's attention from its campaign against al-Qaeda, according to a new book Inside al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 by the murdered Pakistani investigative reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad, the only journalist to have interviewed Kashmiri.

As the pressure on al-Qaeda grew, Kashmiri became increasingly desperate to get the Pakistan Army off its back by engineering a confrontation with India “thereby allowing al-Qaeda to manipulate its war against NATO in Afghanistan.'' And it was he — and not Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI, Shahzad insists — who masterminded the Mumbai attacks to “provoke India to invade Pakistan.''

Shahzad claims that in the immediate aftermath of the attacks as “Pakistan and India stood eye to eye, the fighting between Pakistan's military and al-Qaeda militants came to a complete halt'' with militants saying “Qunut-e-Nazla (prayers in days of war).''

“They prayed that al-Qaeda and the Pakistan Army would join and fight India together,'' he writes, pointing out that as the threat of a war loomed, with the Pakistan Army “readying for a showdown with India'' al-Qaeda used the “opportunity” to disrupt NATO supply lines in the Khyber Agency.

Plan for bigger attack

In the event, a war was averted but Kashmiri didn't give up. In a rare media interview in October 2009, the notoriously elusive Kashmiri told Shahzad that he was planning a much bigger attack on India with the purpose of plunging the region into a war.

“Mumbai was nothing compared with what has already been planned for India in the future,'' he said.

Shortly afterwards, David Headley and several members of Kashmiri's outfits were arrested and they confessed to planning simultaneous attacks on a number of high-profile targets in India including its nuclear installations and the National Defence College in Delhi.

“The aim was to keep Pakistan and India engaged in hostilities, which would provide a breathing space to enable al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies to realise their objectives in Afghanistan,'' Shahzad argues.

Kashmiri, he says, had vowed to wreak havoc on India or what he calls “Ghazwa-e-Hind.'' Sometime last year, he received an email — the first-ever —from Kashmiri which he says amounted to “a declaration of war'' against India. In it, he threatened to continue to target India until the Army left Kashmir and the Kashmiris were given the right to self-determination. He also threatened to “take revenge'' against the “massacre'' of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Kashmiri wrote: “We warned the international community to play their role in getting the Kashmiris their right of self-determination and preventing India from committing brutalities in Kashmir, especially in Bandipur, raping women, and behaving inhumanly with Muslim prisoners. We warn the international community not to send their people to the 2010 Hockey World Cup, IPL and the Commonwealth Games. Nor should their people visit India — if they do, they will be responsible for the consequences. We, the mujahideen of 313 Brigade, vow to continue attacks all across India until the Indian army leaves Kashmir and gives the Kashmiris their right of self-determination. We assure the Muslims of the subcontinent that we will never forget the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat and the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The entire Muslim community is one body and we will take revenge for all injustices and tyranny. We again warn the Indian Government to compensate for all its injustices otherwise they will see our next action. From 313 Brigade.''

Ironically, for a man who is alleged to have been bumped off by ISI though the latter denies this, Shahzad clears the agency of any direct involvement in the Mumbai attacks and claims that it was masterminded almost single-handedly by Kashmiri using retired Pakistan Army officers. Although the ISI had endorsed a Lashkar-e-Toiba plan to launch an attack in India it was intended as a “low-profile routine'' operation. Even its targets were not known and “the official policy was to drop it.'' Kashmiri hijacked it and turned it into one of the world's most devastating terror atrocity.

“Despite both Headley and [Tahawwur Rana] identifying figures such as Kashmiri, retired Major Haroon and retired Major Abdul Rahman as responsible for the India operations, the Indian establishment and the U.S. counter-terrorism experts continue to suspect the Pakistan army and its proxy LeT of being behind the Mumbai carnage. At one point, they even thought that the Pakistan army and al-Qaeda had developed relations to operate against India together!,'' Shahzad writes dismissing allegations of ISI's involvement in the attacks.