Contrary to reports that the Home Ministry did not keep the External Affairs Ministry informed of the details of interrogation of Lashkar operative David Coleman Headley, government sources on Thursday sought to put the record straight, pointing out that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had been briefed on the issue by Home Minister P. Chidambaram in the presence of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
Even as the blame game between the two key Ministries for the ‘unsuccessful' India-Pakistan Foreign Minister-level talks began with Mr. Krishna taking exception to Home Secretary G.K. Pillai's statement on the disclosures made by Headley that allegedly impacted the atmosphere during the talks, the Home Ministry is learnt to be making a move to hold discussions with the External Affairs Ministry to iron out their ‘differences.'
The sources pointed out that before visiting Pakistan for the SAARC Interior Ministers' conference in June, Mr. Chidambaram had given details of Headley's interrogation by a National Investigation Agency (NIA) team. They said copies of the interrogation report were provided to all concerned, including National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.
India's High Commissioner to Pakistan and a ‘note taker' from the Indian mission were also present at all but one of the meetings the Indian delegation had with Pakistan when Mr. Chidambaram visited Islamabad last month.
‘Privy to information'
“Except the one-on-one meeting between Home Minister Chidambaram and Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik, in all the other meetings the High Commissioner and a ‘note taker' from the mission were present. So they are privy to all information that the delegation discussed with Pakistan,” the sources said.
The sources said the India-Pakistan talks last week were not headed anywhere because the Pakistani Army establishment did not want them to succeed, and engineered “some developments” at the last minute.
They pointed out that Mr. Krishna and his counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, were reported to have made considerable progress during their first session that went on for nearly five hours, the two Ministers even having had a working lunch.
However, Mr. Krishna's schedule to call on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was reversed at the last minute and he first called on President Asif Ali Zardari. In the meantime, Army chief General Kayani met Mr. Gilani and when the talks resumed after Mr. Krishna's two call-ons, the complexion, tone and atmosphere changed. Pakistan adopted a hawkish posture of adhering to a timeline on settling outstanding issues, including Kashmir, which ultimately led to the stalling of talks.
Though the Indian delegation showed flexibility in its approach, the Pakistani side appeared to be having different designs, the sources said.
While completely discounting rumours of the Home Secretary planning to resign in protest against his name being unnecessarily dragged into the controversy, sources in the North Block said the Home Ministry would take up discussions with the External Affairs Ministry and sort out “differences” in their perceptions on certain key issues.
The sources believed that Mr. Pillai was being made a “scapegoat” by certain vested interests. “Many other persons in the government had made a similar statement at different times regarding disclosures made by Headley during his questioning by the NIA team,” the sources added.