An analysis was made in the R&AW as to why Gul denied his talks with Verma. Our conclusion was that since he and Beg had got Benazir dismissed on the charge that she had colluded with R&AW and betrayed the Khalistan movement, if he admitted that it was he who had the four Sikhs handed over to R&AW, that could make the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto in August 1990 mala fide in retrospect. Nawaz Sharif, who was a beneficiary of the dismissal, did not want to go deep into this either.
During the investigation into the Mumbai blasts of March 1993, the Indian intelligence collected conclusive evidence regarding the involvement of the ISI in the explosions. This evidence was given wide publicity and also brought to the notice of the American and Chinese intelligence officials by the R&AW as suggested by PV Narasimha Rao, the then prime minister. The CIA and the Chinese external intelligence, independently of each other and without each knowing of the offer made by the other, offered to organise a dialogue between R&AW and the ISI so that the heads of the two organisations could discuss the matter away from the glare of publicity.
Narasimha Rao rejected both these offers. He said: ‘R&AW has been having a relationship with the CIA for 25 years. It has not been able to get its cooperation in counter-terrorism. Before suggesting to us counter-terrorism cooperation with Pakistan, let the US first cooperate sincerely with us in counter-terrorism.
We know how Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto deceived Indira Gandhi at Shimla. He made an oral promise to work for the conversion of the Line of Control into the international border. After getting his soldiers back, he totally denied making any such promise to her. Now Hamid Gul is even denying meeting and discussing Siachen with Verma. It will be a dangerous illusion to think anything will come out of cooperation between the ISI and the R&AW.
Let us not commit the same mistake again and again.’ Narasimha Rao said no formal reply need be sent to the US and China on their offer. ‘Let them guess from our silence that we are not in favour of it.’ You would now understand, I hope, why there is not much enthusiasm in India to the idea of a Joint Mechanism for Counter-Terrorism Cooperation. They say once bitten, twice shy. India has been bitten thrice — after the Shimla talks between Indira Gandhi and ZA Bhutto; after the meetings between Verma and Hamid Gul; and after the meeting between AB Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif at Lahore in February 1999.
Mr Foreign Minister, Pakistan has handed over so many terrorism suspects to the US and other countries. Forget about terrorists. Can you recall even a single instance where Pakistan has handed over even a cattle-lifter to India? Whenever India has asked Pakistan to hand over a terrorist or other criminal, Pakistan’s response has been that India has not been able to produce convincing evidence against him.
And whenever India has asked Pakistan to hand over a non-Muslim terrorist, Pakistan’s response has been: ‘Yes, we agree you have good evidence against him, but your information that he is in our territory is wrong.’ The handing-over of the Sikh army deserters is the only instance of such action by Pakistan that I can recall. I cannot understand even today why Gul did it. Was he planning to use them to collect military intelligence from India?
All Pakistan has to do to demonstrate its sincerity is to hand over some of the terrorists from India living in Pakistani territory before the first meeting of the Joint Counter-Terrorism Mechanism. It will have a big impact in India and many sceptics will start supporting the mechanism.