India for the first time directly accused Pakistan’s military intelligence agency of involvement in last November’s Mumbai attacks, amid reports Islamabad’s own probe will suggest the assault was planned in Bangladesh.
In a speech in Paris reported by the Indian media on Friday, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said the perpetrators “planned, trained and launched their attacks from Pakistan, and the organizers were and remain clients and creations of the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence].”
The stunning November assault on India’s financial capital, when 10 gunmen killed 165 people during a 60-hour siege, has led to a furious blame game that has sharply escalated tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Last month, India handed Islamabad a dossier of what it said was evidence linking “elements” in Pakistan to the attack.
India has blamed the assault on the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is active in Indian-ruled Kashmir, but the Pakistan-based organization has denied responsibility.
Islamabad on Friday furiously rejected Menon’s allegations as “part of a global smear campaign.”
“Pakistan rejects the allegations as these are far from reality and patently mala fide [in bad faith],” foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said.
“It was yet another manifestation of undisguised hostility and [a] global smear campaign being conducted by India against Pakistan,” Basit said.
Pakistan has confirmed that the lone surviving Mumbai gunman, who is now in Indian custody, is one of its citizens, but it insists that the attackers were “non-state actors.”
India had previously blamed the ISI for a suicide attack on its embassy in Kabul last July, in which 60 people, including India’s military attache and a diplomat, were killed.
Menon said India had long suffered from “terrorist organizations, their support structures, official sponsors and funding mechanisms, which transcend national borders but operate within them.”
He also criticized foreign arms sales to Pakistan in the name of fighting terrorism, saying it was like selling “whisky to an alcoholic.”
The US has been one of Pakistan’s key military backers, including providing F-16 fighter jets in return for political support for its operations in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s oldest English-language newspaper, Dawn, reported that investigators probing the Mumbai attacks for the government in Islamabad had uncovered evidence implicating a banned Bangladesh-based militant organization, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islmani (HUJI).
The report, based on unidentified sources, also mentioned the possibility that one of the gunmen was of Bangladeshi origin.
The probe “is likely to indicate that the Mumbai attack was the handiwork of an ‘international network of Muslim fundamentalists’ present in South Asia and spread all the way to Middle East,” Dawn said.
“Although the Bangladesh connection has emerged quite prominently in the investigations, there are also clear indications that some of the planning for the attacks was done in Dubai and there is also an element of local Indian support,” it said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Friday the results of Islamabad’s own investigation into the attacks would be made public next week.
HUJI has been blamed by authorities for a series of attacks in Bangladesh and also accused of responsibility over a series of synchronized bomb blasts across the northeast Indian state of Assam in November in which nearly 80 people were killed.