The Federal Bureau of Investigation thought Indian requests for information on the IC-814 hijacking were “fishing expeditions,” but it was concerned India was withholding information that could affect its own prosecution of the case in the United States.
Three cables from the U.S Embassy in New Delhi tell the story of deep mistrust between the two countries on the IC-814 issue.
The information the Indian government wanted was listed in two non-papers given to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in March and May that year (Cable 29497: confidential, March 24, 2005; 32567: confidential, May 13, 2005).
The non-papers asked for information relating to the reported seizure of documents about the hijacking by U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan; data from the Kandahar airport about the flight's landing; information about the roles played by Afghan Taliban authorities during the hijack crisis.
In particular, India sought “the responses of two senior members of the Taliban government who were reportedly in U.S. custody” and for the Americans “to examine the possibility of getting statements from other Taliban functionaries also reportedly in the custody of U.S. forces.”
The two senior Taliban government functionaries were ex-civil aviation minister Mansoor Akhtar, and the Taliban corps commander, Akhtar Usmani.
The non-papers asked for “any additional information” about the whereabouts of the seven “Pakistani nationals” involved in the hijacking; their conduct “prior to, during and after” the hijacking; and about “the landing of the hijacked aircraft at Lahore Airport, its subsequent refueling, take-off, etc.”
While conveying the Indian request in March, Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Blake wrote also that the CBI had given a visiting FBI team access to “hundreds of documents” to enable U.S. prosecution of the IC-814 case.
He added that the CBI had told the team “they were only sharing ‘what we think you need to know'.”
Mr. Blake worried that such a formulation “might raise US prosecutorial concerns” that India had withheld “some exculpatory information.”
Later that year, the Embassy once again conveyed that India was withholding information (45536: secret, November 18, 2005).
Reporting a meeting with MEA Joint Secretary S. Jaishankar, Mr. Blake cabled on November 18, 2005 that the Indian official had raised doubts about U.S. intentions to prosecute the accused in its own case on the 1999 hijacking, as there had been no indictments.
To this, Mr. Blake added the Legal Attache's explanatory comment that the U.S. had not filed indictments because the FBI was still awaiting all available investigative documents and reports from India.
“(…Since 2002, Legat has submitted at least six requests for information, and the GOI has yet to release all documents related to the case. We are following up in diplomatic channels. End Legatt Comment).”
(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.)