Israeli officials: India playing down New Delhi attacks to avoid rift with Iran
Indians have located motorcycle used in attack, have identified who purchased it, and know how and when the attackers arrived in India.
Indian intelligence services have considerable evidence that Iran was behind this month's New Delhi terrorist attack, but are not releasing it in a bid to avoid public confrontation with the Islamic republic, an Israeli security source says.
The defense attache's wife, Tal Yehoshua-Koren, was injured in the February 13 blast. She was riding in an embassy vehicle to pick up her children from school when a man on a motorcycle attached an explosive device to the rear of the car and then fled.
According to a senior Israeli official who is close to the investigation, the Indians are close to fully solving the case but they are not saying so publicly. Nonetheless, in quiet contacts with Israel and the United States, the Indians are not concealing the information in their possession, the Israeli official said. The Indians have located the motorcycle used in the attack, have identified who purchased it, and know how and when the attackers arrived in India, the Israeli added. Similar details have also been published by news agencies in India.
"The Indians received a great deal of assistance in the investigation from the United States and Israel and did a lot of work themselves," the senior Israeli official said. "They know Iran is behind the attack. They got to the suspects and carried out arrests. The picture is totally clear to all the officials in India up to the level of the interior minister, but they're not publicizing [it]."
The Israeli official said Indian security services have decided to characterize the incident as a case that, until further notice, is under investigation. This has lowered the pressure for the release of details, and the need to make serious decisions on how to proceed has been deferred. "The Indians understand that if they release the details they have, they won't have a choice but to take steps such as expelling the Iranian ambassador," said the Israeli source. "At this stage, they prefer to avoid such a crisis with Iran."
Indian police began an effort to locate the biker and the motorcycle and, in the initial days after the attack, the Indian media was full of reports about the reviewing of security camera footage from the area of the attack, and of the discovery of an abandoned red motorcycle, suspected of being used by the assailant.
The Indian press even reported in detail that police were preparing a report about the properties of the explosive charge. The police promised to release the report within 48 hours, but that never happened and it has still not been made public. Indian investigators were sent to Georgia and Thailand - where there were failed attacks a short time after the New Delhi blast - to compare findings over the explosive charges used. In both countries clear evidence was found of Iranian involvement in the attempts.
There have been Indian media reports claiming that 13 suspicious telephone calls made to Iran and Lebanon in the hour before and after the New Delhi blast have been examined. Four of the calls were reportedly made from a public telephone with a view of the restaurant where Yehoshua-Koren and her husband were eating a short time before the attack.
Several days later, however, the tone of the Indian media coverage changed. Reports appeared that the investigation was stalled for lack of a lead and then reports on the investigation almost entirely stopped appearing.
In their public statements, the Indian interior and foreign ministers refrained from attaching blame for the attack.
Since the New Delhi attack, Israel has refrained from exerting public pressure on India with respect to anything related to the investigation. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has adopted the line that it has confidence in Indian security authorities.
For his part, Israeli Energy and Water Resources Minister Uzi Landau, who visited India last week, gave interviews to the Indian press in which he said Iran was behind the attack, but he also expressed full confidence in the investigation India is conducting, including the level of expertise and the determined approach Israel sees Indian authorities taking. He also expressed confidence that the terrorists would be found.
Israel has a wide range of economic and military interests in India, particularly when it comes to the sale of advanced weapons systems to the Indian army. In recent months, there has been an additional improvement in relations between the two countries. Indian Foreign Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna visited Israel at the beginning of January after a lapse of almost 10 years since the last visit by an Indian foreign minister.
In the visit last month, two matters of strategic importance to the two countries were discussed - the signing of a free trade agreement between the countries and the possible sale of Israeli natural gas to India. In addition to military exports, Israel is interested in substantially increasing its civilian exports to India.