M A I N   N E W S

After blunt talk by PM, ISI chief to visit India
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

In an unprecedented move, Pakistan today agreed to send the chief of its main spy agency to New Delhi for sharing intelligence with Indian counterparts amid persistent accusations that Mumbai attackers had come from Karachi.

The decision to send Lt Gen Shujaa Pasha, director general of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), was taken by country’s top leadership in a meeting after both President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani separately spoke to Indian premier Manmohan Singh to assure him full cooperation in the investigations for unveiling all facts behind the Mumbai bloodbath.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the “request for dispatching the ISI chief came from Manmohan Singh for the exchange of information”. A press release from the PMO recalled that the Indian Prime Minister was the first foreign leader to call Gilani soon after the deadly Marriott blast in Islamabad on September 20 last and offered all possible cooperation.

Gilani talked to Manmohan Singh early this morning after which President Zardari also rang up the Indian leader. Later, both Zardari and Gilani held an emergency meeting and decided to promptly respond to the request for sending the ISI chief. The modalities for Gen Pasha’s visit were set in motion immediately and officials said he may leave for New Delhi any time within next 48 hours.

With tensions mounting between the two neighbours in the wake of Indian accusations, Pakistan’s friends also moved in to press the Pakistani leadership to take concrete action to allay Indian suspicions. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice called Zardari late Thursday night to urge him for taking early steps to avert the evolving dangerous escalation.

Many analysts likened the current mood in India to that prevailing in the wake of December 13, 2001, attack on Indian Parliament after which India massed nearly half a million troops on Pakistan’s borders, raising a grave threat of even a nuclear war.

In their conversation with Manmohan Singh, Zaradri and Gilani reiterated strong condemnation of the “detestable” acts of terrorism in Mumbai. When Manmohan Singh pointed out that preliminary investigations had revealed that the terrorists, who appear to have been well trained and equipped for a highly sophisticated operation they launched in Mumbai, had come from Pakistan, Zardari asserted that Pakistan itself was a victim of terror.

The President appreciated the fact that the Indian Prime Minister had sought the ISI chief’s visit for the exchange of information and emphasised that both countries had common interest to confront the terrorists.

Though both governments have been talking about evolving a common strategy for combating terrorism, this is the first significant move by India to suggest a personal visit by the chief of the ISI, which the Indian government and the defence establishment have often blamed of masterminding acts of terrorism in India.

Manmohan Singh in his address to the nation on Thursday stopped short of naming Pakistan as the source of Mumbai attacks and referred only to India’s “neighbours”. But external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee today categorically stated that the attackers had come from Karachi.

The Indian civil and military security officials and the media also pointed the finger towards Pakistan.

A former chief of ISI, Lt Gen Asad Durrani (retd) termed as “unprecedented and odd” the move to send Gen Pasha to India saying it carried certain unpalatable implications strengthening the insinuations.

He said if the Indians had any evidence this could be examined by experts from both sides after which a top level visit could be arranged. “However, it is the prerogative of the government to take even unusual steps to deal with a situation”, he said.



Black Friday for Unnikrishnan family

National Security Guards commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan who died while battling terrorists in Taj Hotel on Friday.
National Security Guards commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan who died while battling terrorists in Taj Hotel on Friday.

Bangalore, November 28
It was a black Friday for the Unnikrishnan family as news of their 31-year-old son, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, on deputation with the NSG, being killed in terror operation strike in Mumbai filtered in here this morning.

Sandeep, who passed out from Frank Anthony School in Bangalore and was later commissioned in the Bihar Regiment in 1999, was among the brave armed forced personnel who laid down their lives in the strike against terrorists in Mumbai.

“The family has been inconsolable. Both his mother and sister continue to be shell-shocked”, said S.K. Krishnan, a close family friend and a former colleague of Sandeep’s father at ISRO. Sandeep’s father Unnikrishnan had retired from the Department of Space at ISRO.

“The family had no idea that Sandeep was part of the operation in Mumbai. He had not informed his family about the operation owing to security reasons”, he said.

“However, we did feel he could have been part of the operation as large number of NSG contingents had been called in to flush out the terrorists and free hostages,” he said.

“The news was received when a personnel contacted us and television news confirmed our worst fears”, he said. — PTI



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