ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan's intelligence chief said there will not be war with India over the Mumbai attacks and emphasized terrorism — not India — was the greatest threat to the country, according to a rare interview.
Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha also told German news magazine Der Spiegel that his powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency — thought to have a high degree of independence — was under the control of the recently elected civilian government.
The interview appeared on the magazine's Web site on Tuesday.
India blames Pakistani militants for the November attacks on targets in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people. The charges have raised tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors, which have fought three wars in 60 years.
On Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Pakistani state agencies must have had a hand in the attacks, charges dismissed by Islamabad as "propaganda."
Pasha told the magazine that "there will not be war."
"We are distancing ourselves from conflict with India, both now and in general," he said.
Pasha seldom gives interviews to reporters, and one of his aides said Wednesday that the comments made in early December were meant to be off the record. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
India has said the gunmen had connections to the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and gave Islamabad evidence it said proves those accusations. Lashkar is widely believed to be a 1980s creation of the agency Pasha heads in order to pressure India over the disputed area of Kashmir.
But Pasha said Pakistan was focused on fighting terrorism, not fomenting it.
"We may be crazy in Pakistan, but not completely out of our minds," Pasha was quoted as saying. "We know full well that terror is our enemy, not India."
Pakistan is under pressure to crack down on militants in its northwest, from which the Taliban is believed to plan attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, at least four police were killed in the volatile region, according to a local official. Mayor Afzal Khan said another three police officers went missing after insurgents attacked their checkpoint in Hangu district. The motive for the attack was unclear however. Hangu has in the past witnessed sectarian violence, and the attack occurred as minority Shiite Muslims prepared to mark Ashura, a key holy day.
Pasha's ISI has played a powerful role in Pakistan ever since the 1980s when the agency worked with Islamic militants to force the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Many believe the agency has maintained connections with those groups, and New Delhi has accused the agency of being involved in attacks against India in recent years.
The agency has sometimes been called a "state within a state" because of its behind-the-scenes role in making or breaking governments.
Pasha said he supported the current government, which took over in March following more than eight years of military dictatorship but is regarded as relatively weak.
"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," he said.
"Anyone who does not support this democratic government today simply does not understand the current situation. I report regularly to the president and take orders from him," he added.