The sensational admission by Pakistan’s former National Security Advisor Mahmud Ali Durrani that the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack was carried out by a terror group based in his country vindicates India’s long-held stand. It exposes Islamabad’s position as a global terror hub. The remark, made during the Asian Security Conference in Delhi, may appear to be stating the obvious. But, the fact that Durrani was the NSA when the 26/11 attacks took place in 2008, claiming at least 168 lives, makes the confession particularly damning. It would be naive to expect that such a daring terror mission can be executed without logistic and military support from Pakistani establishment, particularly the ISI. India has already submitted voluminous documentary evidence pointing to the active involvement of Pakistani establishment in the Mumbai attack and has aggressively taken up the issue at international forums to isolate Islamabad. Pakistan’s dangerous dual policy on terrorism, with its own definition of good terrorists and bad terrorists, now stands exposed globally. There would be no takers for Durrani’s claim that ISI or Army had nothing to do with Mumbai mayhem. India’s National Investigation Agency has already filed a charge sheet establishing the role of two ISI handlers and LeT leaders who directed the attacks. The testimony of LeT operative David Headley before a Chicago federal court revealed the role of ISI handler Major Iqbal.
A sobering assessment of Durrani was that Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, the 26/11 mastermind, has “no utility for Pakistan and strong action must be taken” against him. Durrani, who was sacked in 2009 for indicating that Ajmal Kasab could be a Pakistani, advocated cordial relations between New Delhi and Islamabad. For too long, Islamabad has been unleashing the so-called non-state actors to create terror across India under the mistaken belief that such a strategy offers them safe deniability. The implosion that Pakistani society is at present witnessing stems from this dual policy on terrorism. Despite the incontrovertible evidence against Saeed, Pakistan has been treating him with kid gloves. Keeping him under house arrest is a farcical move to hoodwink the international community. The release of LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi on bail in 2015 has put paid to hopes of a fair trial. In the light of Durrani’s admission, India must step up its efforts to mount pressure on Pakistan to hand over the 26/11 plotters so that they could be prosecuted under Indian laws. Pakistan should close down all the terrorist camps if it wants normalcy in the relationship with India. As Durrani himself said, Pakistan cannot expect to progress if there is no friendship with India. As long as it offers immunity to non-state actors, there can be no possibility of a thaw in Indo-Pak relations.