Seeking to draw a line under the controversy surrounding last month’s meeting between Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan on Saturday replied in the negative when asked whether the Sharm el-Sheikh summit between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan had been a step forward. “But,” he hastened to add, “it certainly wasn’t a step backward.”

The inclusion of Balochistan in the joint statement had made many critics see red but Mr. Narayanan was categorical that it made no difference to India’s position. Asked whether there were any scenarios where he felt India might regret the B-word, the NSA said no. “Frankly, we don’t see the reference to Balochistan as something culpatory, that there is something we are doing.” Mr. Gilani brought up the subject and this was mentioned in the statement. “Now whether we should have put out a complete rebuttal in the joint statement — well, it is a joint statement and it becomes difficult sometimes to put all these things down.”

Asked whether he would rather the reference wasn’t there, the NSA replied: “I don’t think it makes much of a difference. Well, if it was not there, probably somebody could not even mention it ... But they mention it all the time anyway.” Pakistani leaders keep telling all the foreign dignitaries they meet that India is involved in Balochistan, he said. “They’ve made it a point to say our consulates in Afghanistan are involved in Balochistan and Waziristan. So it’s not as if they haven’t been saying these things.” India, he said, is very clear. “We are not involved in Balochistan. Not because of anything else, but because it just doesn’t make sense … to do the kind of thing that the Pakistanis accuse us of — putting a few bombs here, bursting something else. So somebody can always use it, to say, ‘Oh, there is some reference to Balochistan.’ But so what”? Mr. Narayanan added that “most of the western intelligence agencies who have the capabilities know we are not involved there.”

The NSA attributed the progress Pakistan had made so far in investigating the Mumbai case to American pressure. Asked if he’d expected Islamabad to do as much as it had, he said, “We didn’t. But we knew that if the Americans leaned on them, they would. And, therefore, most of our effort at the high level, at least from my side … was primarily to get them to lean on the Pakistanis.” India knew that whatever it said or did, the Pakistanis would do little. “I think the Americans certainly helped a lot… Since their nationals were also killed, [we told them] this was as much an attack on you as it is on us.” Thanks to the FBI and CIA, he said, “the Pakistanis were more forthcoming in accepting some of the basics.” But he said he did not expect them to go any further on the investigative front. “They’ve done just enough to take the heat off them from the West. I think that’s where we are.”

Acknowledging that sections of the Pakistani establishment had begun recognising the threat terrorism posed to Pakistan itself, Mr. Narayanan expressed concern about the fact that only the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its allied groups were being seen as a problem across the border and not the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. “Of course, we don’t what Pakistan to become a fundamentalist state — but what is our primary interest? That we do not want another group to come out of Pakistan and attack us. And that will come from the Lashkar, Jaish and so on. And nothing has happened. We’ve seen no evidence of any of that. And if the information that is coming our way is any index, there’s been little let up on this. Of course, some sections [of the Pakistani establishment] will be concerned about the growth of fundamentalism and extremism, but this is not translating into taking action against what I would call the ‘Punjab group’ which is basically attacking us.”

Pakistan was approaching the threat posed by terrorist groups from a “purely military standpoint,” the NSA said. “And the military takes them item by item. ‘Which is the group that is our main enemy now? The main enemy is the TTP and those groups involved in Swat, Waziristan, FATA etc. This other group is not causing us trouble. There is no evidence of any LeT attack [against us]’. Of course, umbilical connections between all these groups are emerging. In a more orderly society, I think they would say, let’s nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem in the Punjab, which is the real heartland of Pakistan. But we’ve seen no evidence of this. I can’t say whether they are thinking about this. We can only go by actions.”

The NSA was dismissive of Pakistan’s latest request for India to provide information about the terrorist threats the Prime Minister spoke about recently. Laughing, he said, “It’s kind of like telling the robber where the jewels are, literally, I mean, if you tell them how we come by this information, what the source is!”

He said that at this time “it is very difficult to engage in this.” India’s principal aim was “not to assuage Pakistan’s concerns” but to ensure something does not take place on its soil. The joint anti-terror mechanism had been a “leap of faith” on the part of the Prime Minister but it collapsed soon after it was set up. Mr. Narayanan said not all intelligence came from “deep penetration sources.” A lot of information about terror threats came from electronic intercepts by India, the U.S., Britain and others. “Now, to say the Pakistanis alone have never been able to intercept anything of this kind and something has [to be shared], you see, it puts a big question mark on the bona fides to say, please share it with us. Now whatever we have shared in the past, nothing has happened.”

Reminded about the Sharm el-Sheikh statement’s reference to sharing real time, credible information about threats, Mr. Narayanan said India “will provide real time information but it is part of an intent.” If relations improved and India saw Pakistan taking action against the LeT and JeM, it could pass on information. But in any case, the expectation from the joint statement is that each country would inform the other about threats emanating from its territory, the NSA clarified. “If something is happening on their soil, who should be having that information? It’s that country’s intelligence agencies who should be monitoring this and passing on the information to us. And if we have information about something going to take place in Pakistan, we should be sharing it with them. That is what is real time [sharing]. For India to tell Pakistan, ‘We believe someone is going to attack us,’ is really not the intention. They are supposed to pass on to us real time intelligence, that ‘We understand something of this kind is going to happen, please take precautions, please take necessary care’.”