India’s foreign minister accused Pakistan on Sunday of trying to deflect attention from the role of its citizens in last month’s terror attack in Mumbai by leaking word of a hoax phone call to the Pakistani president’s office that forced its air force to go on high alert.
The episode underscored the high level of tension that remains between the two nuclear-armed nations nearly two weeks after the attack, as India continues to charge that a Pakistani terror group with past ties to the government was responsible and Pakistan insists that it was not involved.
Washington Post Foreign Service
During the call, which came on Nov. 28 as the attack was still unfolding, the caller allegedly identified himself as Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and threatened that India would mount military action unless Pakistan took action against the attackers. Pakistani information minister Sherry Rehman said in a statement that the call came from “a verified official phone number of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.” The call prompted President Asif Ali Zardari to put the air force on high alert.
News of the call was first reported in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn over the weekend, and was subsequently picked up by other Pakistani media. But on Sunday, Mukherjee released a statement saying he had first learned of the call from “third countries,” and that the call was a hoax.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari listens to a question during a news conference in Istanbul, December 5, 2008. Pakistan President Zardari and Afghanistan’s Karzai met in Istanbul during a summit organised by Turkish leaders President Gul and PM Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday.REUTERS/Osman Orsal (TURKEY)