Krishna, who had earlier defended Pillai, regretted the timing of the home secretary’s comment, which came on the day he embarked on the controversy-ridden Islamabad visit for bilateral talks with his Pakistani counterpart S M Qureshi.
Disapproving Pillai’s comment, Krishna said: “Perhaps it would have been wiser if that statement had not been made just on the eve of my visit.”
Cut up with Pillai, an indication that South and North Block do not see eye-to-eye on India’s Pakistan policy, Krishna said: “Everyone who was privy to whatever was happening in the Government of India ought to have known that the right kind of atmosphere from India’s side should have been created for the talks to go on in a very normal manner, but unfortunately this episode happened.”
Asked if he had conveyed his dissatisfaction over Pillai’s remarks to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Krishna said: “Well, I have had some discussions with the PM.”
Krishna’s remarks came on a day when diplomatic circles were agog with speculation that Clinton requested Krishna to tone down the remarks about ISI support to terrorists responsible for the Mumbai attack. The two leaders met on Tuesday in Kabul where Krishna informed Clinton about his discussions with Qureshi.
Pillai had said on July 13 that Mumbai terror mastermind David Headley had disclosed to US investigators that it was not just a peripheral role and that “they (ISI) were literally controlling and coordinating it (the attacks) from the beginning till the end”.
The contradictory remarks on this crucial and sensitive issue, observers say, exposed the disconnect between the Home and Foreign ministries and whether mandarins at North and South Blocks had really exchanged notes on the issue.
And yet a week after Pillai’s statement, there is no evidence to suggest a clear stand over the matter. Those who have taken a dim view of Pillai’s comment are questioning why the putative revelations of an accused–– Headley––should be taken so seriously and as gospel truth.
“Pillai was making a statement when a minister was visiting Pakistan to improve ties. He knew fully well the implications of his statement. It is up to Home Minister P Chidambaram to say whether it was a deliberate statement or one made with a hope that it would put added diplomatic pressure on Pakistan”, said an analyst.
Chidambaram, however, has remained silent and not joined issue with Krishna. The controversy also raises the question whether Chidambaram, who visited Islamabad on June 25 for talks with his counterpart Rashid Malik, had raised the issue of ISI involvement.
Following his statement, Pillai appears to have been gagged, an action that is a clear sign that the Home Secretary, who plays a significant role in internal security affairs, has been snubbed.
A Home Ministry additional secretary, D R S Chaudhary, has been assigned the task of interacting and briefing the media. It is said the Prime Minister has been upset with Pillai for several remarks culminating in his ISI comment.