NEW DELHI: The reported statement of NIA Chief that so far there is no hand of Pakistan government or its agency in helping JeM carry out the Pathankot attack has triggered a sparring between India and Pakistan with New Delhi saying that involvement of its nationals "is an accepted fact".
Even as the NIA backtracked on its chief Sharad Kumar's statement, on its part Islamabad, touted his remarks to claim "vindication" of its long standing position in this regard.
The whole row started over a written interview purportedly given by Kumar to a television channel in which he had said "no. So far, no evidence to show that Pakistan government or Pakistani government agency was helping Jaish-e- Mohammed (JeM) or Masood Azhar or his aides carry out Pathankot attack."
Later the NIA issued a statement saying the observation attributed to DG NIA as regards Pathankot investigations "are strongly refuted." It said his statement has been misquoted.
The External Affairs Minister reacted to the controversy today saying the DG NIA has already issued a clarification and it put out the government's position that "the involvement of Pakistan's nationals in the Pathankot Air Base attack is an accepted fact.
"I would remind you that investigations are ongoing. Foreign Secretary had conveyed to his Pakistani counterpart when they met in New Delhi in April that it was time for review of progress in investigation in the attack after return of Pakistan’s JIT, which had gathered all evidence that it had wanted when it visited India," External Affairs spokesperson said in a statement.
He said enough information has also been provided to Pakistani authorities through two Letters Rogatory to conduct investigation in Pakistan so that all those associated in Pakistan with planning, support and execution of the attack are brought to justice.
"At this stage, we await further response and information from Pakistan. It would be injudicious to speculate in this situation," he said.
At the Congress briefing, party's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala made a scathing attack on the government accusing it of weakening India's fight against terrorism nationally and internationally with the NIA director giving "clean chit" to Pakistan and its agencies. He said that this was lamentable given the fact that India had succeeded in putting Pakistan in the dock after the 26-11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Faulting the Modi dispensation for inviting the Pakistani officers including those from the "infamous ISI" to visit the Pathankot airbase, he said that what did the JIT officers did after returning was to attack India and Indian government.
Raising a number of questions for the Prime Minister, he said that it has been a fact that Pakistan has sponsored terrorism and terrorist activities against India for decades. This is a fact well known in international circles.
He said it is a fact that Maulana Masood Azhar, Lakhwi or their terrot outfits or Dawood Ibrahim and other anti-India elements were roaming freely in Pakistan without any protection, help and support from Pakistan government.
Asked whether Congress would demand removal of the NIA director, Surjewala said that the director was "just a pawn" and was trotting out the line given by the Modi government. He said that it must be understood that the NIA director is an officer who has been given an extension.
He also targeted the Prime Minister for his impromptu visit to Pakistan to participate in a birthday and a marriage. He said that the terror strike at Pathankot took place a week later.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also hit at the government and tweeted "No other PM in the history of independent India knelt before Pak like this".