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I never called up Zardari, says Pranab

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee went on record on Sunday to say he had not made any phone call to Pakistan president Asif Zardari

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NEW DELHI: External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee went on record on Sunday to say he had not made any phone call to Pakistan president Asif Zardari after the Mumbai carnage last month.

The clarification came after reports from Islamabad said Pakistan’s military had gone into war-alert following a threatening call from Mukherjee on November 28.

The president’s office not only failed to filter the hoax call, it also informed “third” countries, obviously the US and other western democracies about the call, pointing out that India was going to strike Pakistan.

“We immediately clarified to those friends, and we also made it clear to the Pakistan authorities, that I had made no such telephone call. My last and only conversation with president Zardari was in Islamabad during my May 2008 visit to Pakistan. The only telephone conversation that I have had with a Pakistani leader since the attack on Mumbai was on the evening of November 28 when I spoke to Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who was then in  Delhi, “Mukherjee said.

India is not taken in by Islamabad’s explanation of a hoax call, believing it is just a ruse to take attention off from the main point that the attack on Mumbai was launched from Pakistan and by Pakistani nationals.

Exasperated Indian officials say that is the usual bag of tricks that Islamabad uses to create an impression that New Delhi is ready to go to war and get world sympathy.

“The ISI and the army know that they have been cornered. There is concrete evidence that the Mumbai carnage can be traced to Pakistan. So to go into war-mode and threaten to move forces from the Afghan border creates the kind of alarming situation that the US and Nato countries wish to avoid.

This naturally serves to get the nation galvanise behind the army which is trying to win back popular support,” an official who did not wish to be identified explained.

“It is, however, worrying that a neighbouring state might even consider acting on the basis of such a hoax call, try to give it credibility with other states, and confuse the public by releasing the story in part. I can only ascribe this series of events to those in Pakistan, who wish to divert attention from the fact that a terrorist group operating from the Pakistani territory, planned and launched a ghastly attack on Mumbai,” Mukherjee said.

g_seema@dnaindia.net
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