India, U.S. Faced off on sharing 26/11 information with Pak

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Old 15-Mar-2011
India, U.S. Faced off on sharing 26/11 information with Pak

Hennai March 15:

India was locked in a tussle with the United States over sharing information from the 2008 Mumbai attacks investigation with Pakistan, according to a chain of U.S. Embassy cables accessed through WikiLeaks.

During the India-Pakistan standoff in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation helped the two sides share information of each other's investigations. But India, suspicious of Pakistan's intentions, tried as long as it could to fend off U.S. pressure on information-sharing — before relenting, but with some conditions.

Unhappy about those conditions, the U.S. then sought to work around them through a “broad” reading of the assent. On January 3, 2009 Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice instructed the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi to deliver a demarche (cable 185593: secret) that the U.S. was making available to it material on the Mumbai attacks provided by the Government of Pakistan.

Dr. Rice asked Ambassador David Mulford to tell New Delhi that “this information originated from top Pakistani officials in very sensitive positions and is passed to you with their permission. It represents a genuine willingness on their part to share sensitive and significant information with India.” New Delhi was to be told that the information was “more valuable” than what Home Minister P. Chidambaram had wanted [from Pakistan] “in our December 31 discussion, and represents Pakistan's good faith in pursuing this case.”

Mr. Mulford had to convey how “crucial” it was for India to allow the U.S. to share with Pakistan information gathered by the FBI in Mumbai: “…doing so will further our collective interest in prosecuting those responsible for these attacks.” India also had to be told that “it is vital that we agree that the fact of this information-sharing will not be leaked.”

Read with another cable sent on January 3, 2009 by the Ambassador to Islamabad, Ms. Patterson (cable 185604: Secret, published by The Guardian late last year), it was clear that Dr. Rice was referring to the go-ahead from Inter Services Intelligence chief Lt. General Shuja Ahmed Pasha information from Pakistan's investigation into the Mumbai attacks with Indian intelligence.

Dr. Rice's message was delivered immediately. Two days later, on January 5, Mr. Chidambaram met the Ambassador. The Minister told Mr. Mulford that India “concurred” in the U.S sharing with Pakistan information gathered by its law enforcement agencies during the Mumbai investigation.

But Mr. Chidambaram added a caveat. Mr. Mulford cabled on January 5, 2009 (185719: secret) that the information shared had to be limited to “items specified in the Indian diplomatic note” to Pakistan. On the same day that Mr. Mulford met the Home Minister, India had handed over a diplomatic note and a dossier of information on the attacks, the first in a long series of such dossiers.

Later the same day, India shared a 55-page dossier of information with diplomats of 14 countries whose citizens were killed in the attack. Briefing the diplomats present, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon informed them that the dossier given to the Pakistan High Commissioner was a “similar, more limited package.” It was to this “limited package” that the Home Minister wanted the U.S. to restrict itself while passing on information to Pakistan.

In a second cable on January 5 (185722: confidential), Mr. Mulford, sounding defeated, relayed that the Indian government “appears to have withheld consent to share the results of FBI investigations in Mumbai with Pakistan in order to turn over the information as it deemed appropriate.” He wrote that “the Indians want to control precisely what information reaches Islamabad.”

The next day, on January 6, Mr. Mulford sent another cable (185899: Secret) to Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, tellingly headlined “INDIAN CONCURRENCE ON INFORMATION SHARING - TAKING YES FOR AN ANSWER.” There he urged that India's concurrence in information-sharing with Pakistan, as conveyed by Mr. Chidambaram “should be read broadly.”

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