Pakistani spy chief says no war with India

ISLAMABAD Wed Jan 7, 2009 3:52am EST

Pakistani army troops guard the streets during a Shi'ite Muslim religious procession ahead of the Ashura festival in Lahore January 6, 2009. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

Pakistani army troops guard the streets during a Shi'ite Muslim religious procession ahead of the Ashura festival in Lahore January 6, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mohsin Raza

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The chief of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has said there will not be a war with India over November's militant attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai, Der Spiegel reported. Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha told the German magazine in an interview terrorism, not India, was Pakistan's enemy, and he said he took orders from the civilian president.

"There will not be a war," Pasha said. "We are distancing ourselves from conflict with India, both now and in general."

India blames Pakistan militants for the attack on Mumbai by 10 gunmen who killed 179 people. It has revived tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors who have fought three wars since 1947.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped up a war of words Tuesday, saying for the first time the assault "must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan."

Pakistan has denied any involvement by state agencies and rejected Singh's accusation, saying India was ratcheting up tension and risked destroying all prospects of a serious and objective investigation.

Pasha said that soon after the Mumbai attack, Pakistan had anticipated an India military response.

"At first we thought there would be a military reaction. The Indians, after the attacks, were deeply offended and furious, but they are also clever," he said.

"We may be crazy in Pakistan, but not completely out of our minds. We know full well that terror is our enemy, not India."

The Pakistani government had initially offered to send Pasha to India to help with the investigation but withdrew the offer, apparently after objections from the top brass.

Pasha told Der Spiegel he had been willing to go to India.

"Many people here are simply not ready," he said in the interview, published on Spiegel Onlne.

SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT

India sent evidence Monday to Pakistan that it said linked Pakistani militants to the attacks, including data from satellite phones and what it describes as the confession of a surviving attacker

Pakistan said it had got a dossier and was examining it.

Pasha, a former chief of military operations, was appointed director-general of the military's main security agency in September, two months after the government that came to power after February elections tried to bring it under the ambit of the Interior Ministry.

The government dropped the attempt in the face of objections from the military.

But Pasha said he and the military fully supported the government, led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, replaced former army chief Pervez Musharraf as president in September.

"It is completely clear to the army chief and I that this government must succeed. Otherwise we will have a lot of problems in this country," Pasha said.

"The result would be problems in the west and east, political destabilization and trouble with America ... Anyone who does not support this democratic government today simply does not understand the current situation."

The dissolution of an ISI section responsible for spying on Pakistani politicians in November was seen as a military concession to the civilian government, Der Spiegel said.

"I report regularly to the president and take orders from him," Pasha said.

Pasha said ISI officers were allowed to hold different opinions: "But no one can dare to disobey a command or even do something that was not ordered."

Pasha also dismissed speculation of a secret agreement allowing the United States to attack militants in Pakistan with missile-firing drone aircraft.

"But to be honest, what can we do against the drone attacks? Should we fight the Americans or attack an Afghan post, because that's where the drones are coming from? Can we win this? Does it benefit Pakistan?"

(Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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