ISI chief wants to meet Indian couterpart, Indian govt cautious

ISI chief Shuja Pasha has requested a meeting with his Indian counterpart. India is yet to respond to the request and sources said the government was assessing the request carefully.


ISI_CLEAN_LOGOThe ISI chief had recently met Indian defence attaches in the high commission in Islamabad and this request was formally made to them. The request came along with a briefing on terrorism related aspects. This happened around the time that PM Manmohan Singh travelled to Italy for the G-8 summit.

But after the July 16 Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement between India and Pakistan, there is apprehension that Pakistan would use the meeting as a forum to bash India on Balochistan, rather than talk turkey on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism against India.

The RAW chief is not the direct counterpart of the ISI chief, primarily because the ISI chief is part of the military leadership of Pakistan and plays a direct role in policy making. The RAW chief in India is a mere civilian bureaucrat. In terms of capabilities, there is clearly no meeting ground, said high level officials. There is also no consensus on whether the intelligence chiefs should meet in the open or in the shadows, in India or Pakistan or in a third country.

This is precisely the reason why the inclusion of Balochistan in the joint statement is likely to cost India dear. The PM was right in saying that India has no activity in Balochistan, but Pakistan is going to use Balochistan as a way to delay its own actions against terror groups targeting India, or confronting the reality of the problems in Balochistan.

The Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement that was crafted by the MEA will now give Pakistan an opportunity to “level” the playing field on terrorism with India. Sources said the ISI chief’s offer to meet RAW chief K C Verma could give just such a platform.

It was in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked his counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani to send the ISI chief across. It was agreed by Gilani, but the proposal was torpedoed by Pakistan army chief Ashfaque Kayani. He was reported to have said, “The Indians will ask for me next!”

But the ISI chief’s offer to come at this time points to growing US pressure on Pakistan to act on India’s complaints, which is why there is no protest from Kayani this time.

US special envoy for Af-Pak Richard Holbrooke is scheduled to visit Pakistan on Friday and is likely to visit India next week. This issue is expected to be discussed with the US official as well.

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