Nirupama Subramanian

No guarantee against another 26/11

ISLAMABAD: In a move apparently aimed at projecting Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani as having conveyed a tough message to the U.S. and India, he has been reported to have told the visiting Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, that his government cannot guarantee there will be no repeat of the Mumbai 2008 attacks on Indian soil.

The purported remark did not find any mention in the official press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday after his meeting with Mr. Gates, and was selectively leaked to Dawn, the only news organisation that reported it.

“Pakistan is itself facing Mumbai-like attacks almost every other day and when we cannot protect our own citizens, how can we guarantee that there wouldn’t be any more terrorist hits in India,” Mr. Gilani is said to have told Mr. Gates, according to an unnamed source quoted by the newspaper.

The sentiment is not new in itself. Interior Minister Rehman Malik once warned that if India could not cooperate with Islamabad in sharing evidence and intelligence, Pakistan should not be blamed if another 26/11-style attack took place in India.

Mr. Gilani’s reported tough talk was evidently framed as a rejoinder to Mr. Gates’ comment in New Delhi suggesting that India would find it difficult to show the kind of restraint it did after 26/11 if there was another such attack from Pakistani soil.

The U.S. official also said there was evidence to link the Lashkar-e-Taiba to the al-Qaeda, which wanted to plunge the region into chaos by triggering a war between India and Pakistan.

Mr. Gates’ comment may have been aimed at putting pressure on Pakistan to act decisively against militant groups targeting India, but it went down badly here, and was seen as further evidence of a growing U.S.-India alliance, and a “discriminatory” attitude against Pakistan by America. Mr. Gilani is reported to have recalled the steps taken against militant groups saying they had been outlawed and their network was disrupted.

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