- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | Pakistan scrambled Friday to avoid a dangerous face-off with India over the terrorist attacks in Bombay, sending its spy chief to share intelligence and countering Indian charges that “elements in Pakistan” were behind the carnage.

Clear Pakistani fingerprints on the attacks would endanger fragile peace talks between the nuclear-armed rivals and U.S. efforts to persuade Pakistan to focus on al Qaeda and Taliban militants along the Afghan border.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani insisted Friday that such evidence would not be found.

“I am saying it clearly that Pakistan has nothing to do with this incident. Pakistan has no link with this act,” Mr. Gilani said. “We condemn it. The whole nation condemns it.”

In London, meanwhile, the British government said it is investigating whether some of the attackers could be British citizens with links to Pakistan or the disputed territory of Kashmir, but there was no such evidence yet.

Earlier reports claimed at least one of the gunmen could have been a British-born Pakistani. CNN, citing British intelligence sources, reported that some form of British identification was found on two of the attackers.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947. They remain at odds over the divided territory of Kashmir, and New Delhi has accused Islamabad of complicity in a string of terrorist acts on its soil.

The tension has eased in recent years, and the pro-Western government formed in Pakistan after February elections has made eye-catching overtures toward its neighbor.

India’s foreign minister on Friday ratcheted up the accusations over the brazen and well-planned attacks in its financial capital, which began Wednesday night and killed more than 160 people, including 22 foreigners.

“According to preliminary information, some elements in Pakistan are responsible,” Pranab Mukherjee said. “Proof cannot be disclosed at this time.”

His comment suggested that militant groups based in Pakistan were suspected in the attack, rather than Pakistani authorities.

New Delhi’s past complaints about Pakistan - shared by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and some in Washington - have centered on its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Pakistani leaders have defended the agency vigorously and have complained that their country is being scapegoated for Western failures in Afghanistan. Still, they have also made moves to reform the ISI, including appointing a new chief in September.

Mr. Gilani said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told him in a telephone call Friday that there were “some indications” linking the Bombay attack to Karachi, a chaotic metropolis on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast, where a host of Islamic militant groups have a presence.

Mr. Gilani said he had granted Mr. Singh’s wish that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, hurry to India in person to share intelligence.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also called Mr. Singh on Friday and cautioned against falling into the “trap of militants” by launching into mutual recriminations.

“The president said the government will cooperate with India in exposing and apprehending the culprits and the masterminds behind the attack,” Mr. Zardari’s office said.

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