'Journalists and intelligence officials do a similar job -- collect information.'
Three former R&AW officials tell Vicky Nanjappa/Rediff.com that they see nothing wrong in Ved Prakash Vaidik meeting Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist Muhammad Saeed.
Ved Prakash Vaidik, who says he is a journalist of 55 years standing and is known to be a close associate of Hardwar-based yoga propagator Ramdev, has come under fire from the media and political parties after he met Muhammad Saeed, the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and founder of the terror group Lashkar-e-Tayiba, in Pakistan earlier this month.
A defiant Vaidik says there is nothing wrong with his meeting Saeed.
"If you were in Pakistan and a meeting with Saeed was arranged, would you not have met him? Journalists and intelligence officials do a similar job -- collect information," C D Sahay, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency, told Rediff.com
"I, personally, do not believe Vaidik was sent to meet Saeed by the government. Let us assume for a minute that he was able to gather some information and then passed it on to the (intelligence) agencies, then that needs to be worked on. We should not make a mess out of this issue and politicians should refrain from trying to score points," Sahay added.
V Balachandran, a former R&AW official who was a member of the two-member R D Pradhan committee which probed the 26/11 attacks, concurs. A journalist, Balachandran feels, is free to meet anyone and is not bound by India's foreign policy.
"Do you remember when (veteran Indian journalist) Kuldip Nayar met A Q Khan (the 'father' of Pakistan's nuclear programme)? It was only after that interaction that the world was made aware of Pakistan's dirty bomb."
"Nayar was criticised (for the interview)," Balachandran recalled, "but the information was very helpful. You cannot restrain a journalist like you would do a government official."
"Vaidik was not meeting Saeed at the government's behest," Balachandran believes.
R K Yadav, another retired RAW officer, feels as a journalist Vaidik is free to meet anyone he wishes to. "I don't hold Vaidik in high regard and think he is hungry for publicity. I am told he has good relations in Pakistan and that he spoke about Kashmir to Saeed," Yadav said. "However, this meeting was held on an individual level and should not be linked to the government or prime minister."
Image: Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist Muhammad Saeed steps out of a vehicle to attend prayers during Ramzan in Karachi. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters
Read Vicky's interview with Ved Prakash Vaidik: 'I don't regret meeting Hafiz Saeed'