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Jundal born from call to radicalise Indian Muslims

July 06, 2012 14:54 IST

Lashkar-e-Tayiba chief Hafiz Saeed's idea of radicalising one percent of Indian Muslims to create an army of a crore was the start of the big anti-India agenda. All this was done to catch the eye of the ISI, say security experts. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

In 1996, Lashkar-e-Tayiba chief, Hafiz Saeed, had said openly at Muridke, Pakistan that if they succeed in even making one percent of the Indian Muslims radical then they would have an army of 1 crore to carry out attacks on India. Terror accused Abu Jundal -- the man in the control room during the 26/11 Mumbai attack -- is an example of what Hafiz Saeed was speaking about.

Security analysts believe that Jundal was radicalised with an intention to carry out attacks on Indian soil. While his arrest may have brought out vital information, it, however, would not change anything in the Pakistani set up.

C D Sahay, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing and Stephen Tankel, author of the book, Storming the World Stage - The story of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, who is also a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, discussed with rediff.com the importance of nabbing Abu Jundal and what it changes for India when it deals with Pakistan.

Sahay is of the view that nabbing someone like Jundal would not change anything in Pakistan and their approach towards terrorism on Indian soil. "Terrorism is like a business, an industry, in Pakistan and there are many such players. The nabbing of one Jundal would not get them into a mode of admitting their role in acts of terror," says Sahay.

"Jundal is one of the many Indians who was motivated and recruited for the 26/11 attacks. He was part of the control room because he was from India; he knows places and the Indian psyche. Moreover, having a couple of Indians in the attack would work to Pakistan's advantage, since they could always turn around and say that there were Indians involved in the attack as well," adds Sahay.

Tankel says that the fact that Abu Jundal was arrested by the Saudis and then deported to India, despite, protest by Pakistan, is significant. "While it is by no means the end to Pakistan's close alliance with Saudi Arabia, it does indicate that the alliance is not ironclad," he says.

Similarly, while it is by no means a sign that the Gulf will no longer be a place from which Indian and Pakistani militants operate, the arrest of Jundal and those that may follow, could make some militants think twice before operating there.

"As for Ansari's (Jundal) importance, he was clearly a player in the Lashkar and rose to a higher level than most Indian operatives could ever contemplate. He also appears to have been an important interface with members of India's small jihadist movement. Thus, Ansari is likely to provide significant insight into the inner workings of the Lashkar, the Indian Mujahideen and the relationship between them as well as with their interactions with the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence).  

Sahay points out that after the Hizbul Mujahideen was incapable of delivering the goods in Kashmir to Zia-ul-Haq (former president of Pakistan), there was the rise of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. It had a global agenda with links to jihad factories across the world. Pakistan, in the Lashkar, saw a long-term and dependable ally. They initially focused just on Jammu and Kashmir but later realised that not enough attention was being attained by focusing only on the Valley, which the people were getting fed up of.

"It was at this time in the year 1996 that the Lashkar decided to further its India agenda and that is when Saeed mentioned that radicalising one percent of the Indian Muslims would mean having an army of a crore. This was the start of the big anti-India agenda that they carried out with great passion so that they could catch the eye of the ISI. It was operations such as these which led to the birth of Abu Jundal."

"It was a brand factory that the Lashkar wanted to create and the making of Jundals is what they attained so that they could give the Lashkar an Indian brand in the form of (SIMI) Students Islamic Movement of India or the Indian Mujahideen," says Sahay.

Tankel points out that given the allegations that Ansari was in the control room during the November 2008 attacks, he is at least in a position to confirm information already known and possibly to provide additional insights into the planning and execution of the operation. As for whether that will have an impact on the Pakistani security establishment's continued support for groups like Lashkar, "I doubt this will force an about-face. But to the degree that the public evidence piles up and can make the current position more difficult to maintain, that's a good thing," says Tankel.

After the arrest of Jundal, Pakistan was quick to state that there were 40 Indians who were part of the attack. Sahay, however, feels that this is taking matters a bit too far. "The ISI would not have involved more than a few people of Indian origin when they were planning an attack of this nature. There would have been very few people who would have been out of their control. Even during the 2006 train blasts, they engaged a minimum number of people required and all these persons were in a de-linked sort of format."

"The ISI is a 'professional' and would have had serious reservations about permitting a Jundal to involve 40 persons in such an attack. To have more people in the core group would have meant that the information would have leaked," adds Sahay.

The investigation from now onwards will be very crucial for India. If media reports are to be believed there is a turf war on between the states to get custody of Jundal.

Information needs to be pieced together and it would not be fair to keep the police of any state out of this. The Anti Terrorism Squad must be given access since they were the first ones to probe the case. However, it would be the National Investigation Agency which would need to play the biggest role as it is a centralised agency and is handling this case, Sahay points out.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore