New Delhi: Pakistan’s new envoy to India Salman Bashir today said it was “unbelievable” and “incredible” to allege his country’s state institutions involvement in the Mumbai attacks, days after New Delhi demanded further action following LeT terrorist Abu Jundal’s revelations.
Stating that Pakistan was looking at a new way of conducting its ties with India, Bashir said he expects India to do its part since it takes “two to tango”.
“As I said if our own army headquarters are attacked, if ISI offices are attacked, then I think it is really unbelievable, incredible to allege that Pakistani state institutions have been involved in this (Mumbai attacks). We ought to look at the situation very objectively in our own respective national interests,” Bashir told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN‘s Devil’s Advocate programme.
Trying to clear any question marks over Islamabad’s commitment to renewed peace process with India especially in the backdrop of the arrest of Jundal, who has alleged involvement of certain ISI officers in the Mumbai attacks, Bashir said Pakistan’s leadership, state institutions and people have realised that it is in national interest to have best of relations.
“I would say there has been a sea change in Pakistan- India relationship scenario. I can say for Pakistan with great degree of certainty that all levels, the leadership, state institutions, people of Pakistan, we realise that it is in Pakistan’s self interest, national interest to have best of relations,” he said.
On the issue of terror, Bashir said Pakistan was willing to cooperate and reiterated his country’s offer for a joint investigation into the Mumbai attacks. He said Pakistan is yet to hear from India on this.
Replying to queries if Pakistan was willing to probe the involvement of its state institutions in the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, Bashir argued that his country itself was a victim of terror, which he described as a “virus”.
He also said it was wrong to say Pakistan was epicentre of terror.
Refraining from direct comments, he said Pakistan was willing to cooperate and said it was “mindful” of its responsibilities.
He referred to the recent Foreign Secretary-level talks and said there was “very good conversation, good dialogue” which also included the points raised by India pertaining to Jundal specifically and other matters related to terror.
Pressed further on the issue of Jundal, who was deported from Saudi Arabia recently with a fake Pakistani passport, Bashir said India should share information with Pakistan.
Asked if Jundal’s statements on role of Pakistani state elements in the Mumbai attacks is a corroboration of what Pakistan-born American terrorist David Headley said, Bashir said one cannot take things reported in the media at face value.
“Elements of Pakistan’s state, that is what the media has been saying attributing it to Abu Jundal. We have taken note of all that is being said here and my answer again is the same. Let the two sides get together, work through this and I think you cannot take the word of an individual or what is being said out in the public opinion, more credence than actual conversations at official track,” he said.
Bashir also denied charges that the Mumbai terror attacks trial in Pakistan was a sham, saying Islamabad was serious about it.
He deflected the blame to the judicial process and said the Pakistan government has done its best and “will continue to persist to ensure justice finally prevails.”
Told that Pakistan was not pushing enough, the Pakistan envoy said, “Well, I would not like to say anything regarding the subjective assessments but the point is that some of these things, like for instance the Samjhauta thing that took place in 2007 is yet under investigation.
“I think we ought to look at the spirit, we ought to be fixated on objectives that we want to achieve and not get into forensics of a particular situation”.
On the issue of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder and Jamaat-ul-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, who continues to roam freely in Pakistan despite a $10 million bounty for information leading to his arrest and prosecution, Bashir said one has to
follow the law.
“He (Saeed) was under what was called preventive detention, maintenance of public order. It continued for ometime till he was released or orders of Lahore High Court…Both the LeT and the JuD, they have been restricted,
prohibited under law,” he said.
Asked if he was trying to say that Pakistan is doing all it can to restrain Saeed but has to act according to law, Bashir said, “That is unfortunately the dilemma. The civilised society has to operate within the limits of law”.
Bashir said the world is changing fast and there are lot of opportunities between Pakistan and India.
Asked if Pakistan was looking at a new way of conducting relations with India, the career diplomat said, “That is certainly I say is a sincere intent. But of course it takes two to tango. I think we are well on the way in terms of
looking at new approach.”
Bashir noted that the Prime Ministers of both countries have met several times besides Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari‘s recent visit during which “they have had very good conversations”.
“So I think on the drawing board, if I can say so, the theoretical constructs are almost there. Now it is for people like us who are in this business to give it more form, shape, meaning,” he said, referring to the the diplomats of both
countries have to now take the process forward.
Bashir also said Pakistan was looking forward to a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and that “a visit by the Prime Minister of India would go a long way in not only cementing but also in taking the relationship forward”.
Asked if India and Pakistan have learnt to handle the Kashmir issue with less acrimony and more accommodation given the fact that it did not create any problems during the recent Foreign Secretary-level meeting, Bashir replied, “I should think so”.