British diplomats feared that India would be compelled to respond “with force” to Mumbai attacks by launching air strikes against militant training camps in PoK, a prediction dismissed as an “over reaction” by their U.S. counterparts, according to classified American embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.
British officials had evidence that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) “was planning more attacks” and speculated that Indians “will feel the need to respond with force rather than diplomacy,” the Guardian reported, citing the leaked documents.
The then foreign secretary, David Miliband, struggled to get through to his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee in the aftermath of the attacks, the report said. “The call took place only after many delays on the GoI’s (Government of India’s) part,” a cable noted.
After the Mumbai attacks, British officials in Islamabad reportedly feared that intense domestic pressure would force Delhi to respond.
British officials admitted their concern was driven in part by the presence of 500,000 British-Pakistani citizens in PoK. “The pressure on India to react strongly would be politically impossible to avoid,” they were quoted as saying.
However, U.S. officials, said: “For now, we believe the U.K. embassy here is overreacting,” according to the cable, but agreed that Pakistan should take proactive actions against LeT.
The Guardian reported that in mid-December, Mr. Miliband and the High Commissioner to Islamabad, Robert Brinkley, pressed Pakistan’s intelligence chief, General Shuja Pasha of ISI, to visit India, a suggestion that was quickly discounted.
“It would not be possible, said (President Asif Ali) Zardari, to send Pasha immediately as Zardari needed to work public opinion first,” said an American report.
Instead President Zardari urged the U.K. to “push back on New Delhi and calm the situation”.
“Miliband said they would do so, but India needs to see real action from Pakistan.”
In New Delhi, western diplomats meeting to assess the Mumbai attacks collectively decided to offer a sympathetic public message to India “rather than pound on the government for its massive intelligence failure”.