Rajendra Kumar, former special director of Intelligence Bureau (IB), who was part of the delegation of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that had visited Pakistan just two days before the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, has rubbished reports that the Indian delegation was “tricked” and deliberately taken away to Murree by Pakistani officials to “facilitate” the terrorist attack in Mumbai. The Indian delegation was led by then Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta. Barring Kumar, who returned to India on 26 November 2008, the entire MHA delegation was in Pakistan when the attacks began on 26 November.
“It is all rubbish. The fact is that whenever such a delegation goes, it is taken to Murree. This happened in 2008, it happened when V.K. Duggal was the Home Secretary in 2005-2007 and it happened when R.K. Singh was the Home Secretary between 2011 and 2013. The trip to Murree, where talks are held in an informal gathering, has happened multiple times in the past. I can say it with full authority that the trip to Murree was not deliberate or any mischief. In fact, the Pakistani officials with whom we interacted were not aware of the impending attack. Even the Interior Secretary who was our host was not aware of the Mumbai attack,” Kumar told The Sunday Guardian. Last week, reports had come that a delegation led by Madhukar Gupta, which had gone to Islamabad for Home Secretary level talks with his counterpart in 2008 as part of the bilateral composite dialogue process, were “tricked” and their trip was extended by a day after Home Secretary level talks were held at Islamabad on 25 November. Following the talks, the Indian delegation was told that then Interior Minister Rehman Malik was not in Islamabad and he would be back on 26 November after which the Indian delegation went to Murree on the evening of 25 November. According to the reports, the Pakistani plan was to keep top Indian MHA officials in Pakistan even as the 26/11 attacks happened.
According to Kumar, he returned to India on the morning of 26 November for “personal reasons”, while the other staff stayed back. “The Indian delegation was supposed to return on 26 November and on 24 November, some of us reached Islamabad through the Amritsar border, while some of us took a direct flight to Islamabd. Later, we had the Home Secretary level talks on 25 November and after that they invited us to visit Murree, as has been the practice,” he said.
The reason behind this practice, according to Kumar, is to allow officials to interact freely over contentious issues.
“In any such delegation, there are 15 to 16 people, including 5-6 of those who are based in the Islamabad High Commission who later joined the visiting delegation. Obviously, such high level talks do not take place in front of everyone and hence the delegation is taken to an informal gathering,” he said. The rest of the delegation returned on 27 November.