After Syed Zabiuddin Ansari, the government now wants to take three more Indians — suspected to have had a role in terror attacks across the country — in its custody.
These men too were in the CIA list of people living in Saudi Arabia on fake Pakistani passports since 2008, soon after the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai. The three, just like Ansari, fled the country and travelled to Pakistan via Bangladesh before being packed off to Saudi Arabia with Pakistani passports.
Intelligence officials are euphoric over the new-found bonhomie with Saudi Arabia that resulted in Ansari’s arrest. But they are also cautious while discussing about the three with the Saudi government. All the factors that can swing the case either way are being examined, a government source told DNA.
“Saudi Arabia has a large Indian Muslim population. Some of them could be radical elements and the government does not want a terrorism problem on their hands,” a senior official said. “They do not want the matter to get undue publicity; they will agree to our demands only after weighing all options.”
Considering the fact Pakistan has used Saudi Arabia and Dubai for decades as a resting place for terrorists — who have successfully completed a mission — the Ansari episode came as a surprise.
“Pakistan sent terrorists to Saudi Arabia to ensure it never had to accept any blame of harbouring them on its soil,” an intelligence officer said. “Now that India has Ansari in its custody, Pakistan has lost the safe havens there; and terrorists are shocked to say the least.”
The three men whom India wants had Pakistani passports provided by the ISI. During their stay in Saudi Arabia, they met and recruited Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) cadres apart from collecting funds from pilgrims, a source said.
All three were associated with the Indian Mujahideen as well as the LeT. One among them is wanted in connection with the 11/7 serial blasts on Mumbai locals. The other two are wanted in
connection with terror strikes in Delhi and Gujarat.
While New Delhi and Riyadh keep the dialogue process going, the CIA will stay in the background and continue its work of convincing the Saudi government to accept India’s demand.
Frustrated with the goings-on in the AF-Pak region and Pakistan stopping its supply convoy to Afghanistan, the American government is keen to bring terrorists, supported and sponsored by the ISI, to book in India. America hopes its strategic ties with India would improve in the process and India might play an active role in Afghanistan.
Shiv Shankar Menon, national security adviser, and SK Tripathi, R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing — India’s external intelligence agency) chief, have had detailed discussions with Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, Saudi intelligence chief. Another source told DNA that the talks have progressed “satisfactorily”.
Riyadh might be keen to have a better equation with New Delhi because the prospect of India emerging as a major energy buyer, along with China, an intelligence analyst said.