New Delhi: Swami Aseemanand’s alleged confession about the role of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists in the Samjhauta Express blast of 2007 has given Pakistan an opportunity to try and deflect Indian pressure over the 26/11 attacks.
The Pakistan foreign ministry today summoned India’s acting deputy high commissioner, G.V. Srinivas, and asked New Delhi to provide information “at the earliest” on the progress of the train bombing investigation.
It is nearly certain that Pakistan will raise the issue at the February 6-7 talks between the two foreign secretaries on the sidelines of a Saarc conference in Thimphu, and later at the two foreign ministers’ meeting in March.
At Thimphu, the Pakistanis are expected to argue that contrary to India’s allegations of terror exported by Pakistan, “strong local groups like the RSS have been involved in different acts of terror in India”, foreign policy analyst Hasan Askari told The Telegraph in Islamabad.
But though Indian government sources acknowledged that Aseemanand’s alleged revelations had put South Block in a spot, they said the Samjhauta attack was not comparable to Pakistan’s continuous export of terror to India.
The sources said that investigations by American agency FBI had proved that state and non-state actors in Pakistan had worked together to engineer the 2008 Mumbai attacks. They said India would continue to stress this crucial difference in talks.
Some 68 people were killed, 42 of them Pakistanis, in the February 12, 2007, Samjhauta explosion that took place while the Delhi-Lahore train was passing through Haryana on its way to Pakistan.
Aseemanand alias Jatin Chatterjee, 59, is a Bengali who has been associated with the Sangh-affiliated Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad in Gujarat. He is said to have recently confessed in front of a magistrate in a CBI court that Sangh activists were involved in the Samjhauta blast and the explosions in Ajmer Sharif, Malegaon and Mecca Masjid in 2006 and 2007.
Pakistan had last week asked India to act fast and bring the Samjhauta bombers to justice. It had earlier demanded details of the probe during home minister P. Chidambaram’s mid-2010 Islamabad trip and later during foreign minister S.M. Krishna’s visit in mid-July.
“It took almost four years for the Samjhauta Express investigations to come to this pass. We can only hope that no further time will be squandered in bringing the criminals to justice,” Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Abdul Basit said.
It may not be a coincidence that Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani today demanded that India resume the composite dialogue that it had stopped after 26/11.
Krishna had last week reaffirmed India’s reservations about resuming the composite dialogue.
He had said that New Delhi expected Pakistan to “fulfil its repeated assurances given to us at the highest level to not allow the territory under its control for fomenting terrorism aimed against us, and to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice expeditiously”.
Krishna said terrorism from across the border “has had the backing of official agencies, and continues to be used against us as a political and economic weapon”.
The foreign minister had, however, added that India would like to engage Pakistan in a dialogue. “There is no alternative other than talking to Pakistan, keeping them engaged, and thereby sorting out the outstanding issues,” he had said.
Islamabad has been insisting on a road map for future engagements on issues like Kashmir, Siachen and the sharing of river waters. India has indicated it favours a phased approach, with terrorism among the top priorities.
India has repeatedly asked Pakistan to act urgently to bring to book all those involved in masterminding the Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan had last year indicted seven accused, including alleged mastermind and top Lashkar-e-Toiba operative Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, but refused to hand over Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed. Islamabad has asked India to produce concrete evidence substantiating Saeed’s involvement in 26/11.
Maharashtra home minister R.R. Patil has said he would request the CBI to take another look at the September 2006 Malegaon blasts following Aseemanand’s alleged confession.
Teams of Muslim scholars and organisations met Patil today to ask for the release of the nine Muslim youths arrested in connection with the terror attack that killed 37 people and injured 150. They also demanded a reinvestigation of the incident, which involved four blasts, two of them inside a mosque.
“The investigations were done by the Nashik police and the ATS (anti-terrorism squad of the state police) till 2007, after which the CBI investigated the case,” Patil said.
“The CBI had even filed a supplementary chargesheet in 2010. Now we have inputs… from the confession to follow the case.”
Patil said the ATS had been asked to probe whether the attack was planned by individuals or sponsored by any organisation. The ATS will have to provide a report on the possible terror links, if any, of the organisations under the scanner.
“The government should withdraw the cases against the wrongly arrested and begin investigations again,” state minority commission chairman Nasim Siddiqui said, calling for an immediate ban on the Sangh.
Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi met chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to demand the release of Muslim youths held in the case. Muslim organisations have called for action against the police officers who arrested the youths.