"Stay the course in Afghanistan," urged Indian counterterrorism experts in Dec. 7 meetings with visiting S/CT Deputy Director Virginia Palmer.
12/18/2006 6:11:00 AM
Embassy New Delhi
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 NEW DELHI 008387
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2026 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PTER, MOPS, KISL, PK, AF, IN
SUBJECT: INDIAN COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERTS URGE GREATER INDO-US COOPERATION, CRITICIZE PAKISTAN
REF: A. NEW DELHI 8356 B. NEW DELHI 8250
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Classified By: PolCouns Ted Osius for Reasons 1.4 (B,D)
1. (C) SUMMARY: "Stay the course in Afghanistan," urged Indian counterterrorism experts in Dec. 7 meetings with visiting S/CT Deputy Director Virginia Palmer. Describing a need for the Karzai government to extend its writ beyond Kabul, for a national identity to improve morale, and for greater unity for ethnic groups in Afghanistan, the experts suggested bringing moderates into the Afghan government. On a consistent theme regarding the perceived Pakistani terrorist threat, former GOI officials and analysts described the "Pakistan establishment" as the greatest threat to security in the region, and suggested that Pakistan is "waiting for the U.S. to fail." Acknowledging India's shortcomings in the fight against terrorism, the experts suggested greater coordination between the U.S. and India via counterterrorism committees and more meetings of intelligence leaders. Indian commentators and government officials appear to share the view that the Pakistani government's "state sponsorship of terrorism" in Afghanistan and India would cease if only the U.S. would increase pressure on Musharraf. END SUMMARY.
Stay the Course in Afghanistan
2. (C) In Dec. 7 meetings, Indian terrorism analysts and former GOI officials conveyed to S/CT Deputy Director Virginia Palmer that India is concerned that the U.S. will pull out of Afghanistan. "The cost of losing Afghanistan is too great for India," former Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan Gopalaswamy Parthasarathy declared, noting that India has a $650 million aid program in the country. OpiningQat either a real or perceived failure in Afghanistan would be disastrous for the U.S, Parthasarathy said that India would be in "deep trouble" if the U.S. walked away from the conflict. Palmer emphatically reassured him of the U.S. government's commitment to stay the course in Afghanistan. When asked if India would consider putting troops on the ground in northern Afghanistan, Parthasarathy responded that it would depend on "how it's politically played," acknowledging that the idea has some strategic value. The Ambassador suggested that a "prosperous, friendly" Afghanistan would assert its independence through foreign policy and, therefore, become a threat to neighboring Pakistan. Concerning ethnic Pashtuns, he articulated that they have "shifting loyalties" and noted that, though Osama Bin Laden is well-protected, every Pashtun "has his price." He stated that the Pashtun region needs more integration and development, but cautioned that President Karzai would have to help. Parthasarthy advised that Tajiks and Pashtuns should not be thrown together in the same battalions in the Afghan National Army because they lack ethnic linkages to each other. "If you are fighting, you must have a cause to
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fight," he remarked, adding that Tajiks feel abandoned and would benefit from having an all-Tajik battalion, as would the Uzbeks. "They have to be brought into the process," asserted Parthasarathy.
3. (C) Ambassador Parthasarathy suggested that bettering the lives of certain groups in Afghanistan would improve the situation. He pointed out that a grassroots campaign, increasing the quality of life for people working in the fields of Afghanistan and giving ownership to local governance, would bring about local social commitment. Essentially arguing for land reform in the FATA, he argued that establishing a Pashtun identity which is not Taliban nor religious-oriented would be beneficial, and encouraged the U.S. to engage with moderate Pashtun leaders. Constant pressure must be brought to bear to bring moderate elements into government, the Ambassador reiterated. In summation, he declared that the U.S. should first "get out of Iraq," and then "get Afghanistan right." Palmer noted U.S. and NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team efforts to bring security and development to the government of Afghanistan, both in Kabul and into the provinces.
Pakistan's Got You Fooled
4. (C) In a separate meeting, counterterrorism expert Dr. Ajai Sahni of the Institute of Conflict Management asserted his familiar line that, "the Pakistan establishment is the greatest threat to security in the region." He described the Taliban as inextricably linked to the "strategic terrorism" of Pakistan. Citing the Pakistan army's oath of service and government school curriculum, Sahni claimed that Pakistan and Osama Bin Laden are "ideologically similar." At the highest level, the religious extremists of Pakistan are "exceedingly cynical," he said, observing, "they can shove the Sharia (Islamic law) to the side if it gets in the way." On Musharraf, Sahni stated that the Pakistani leader had done a lot of damage, inferring that the U.S. had succumbed to Pakistan's unspoken threat that it would "implode" and destabilize the region. Separately, A.S. Dulat, former head of India's external intelligence agency (RAW), spoke along the same lines, claiming that the U.S. had "placed too much faith in Musharraf." "If Pakistan wants to stop all this (terrorism), they can do it," exclaimed Dulat, adding "Musharraf can turn off the tap anytime. If the U.S. puts pressure on him, he'll fall in line."
5. (C) Turning to the Pakistan intelligence agency (ISI), Sahni insisted that the organization is a disciplined part of the military structure of Pakistan, expounding that it answers faithfully to President Musharraf and whomever he designates. "ISI is completely integrated within the command structure of the Pakistani military," indicated Sahni, scoffing at the notion that the ISI has any plausible derivability. Dulat implied that the ISI is guilty of placating the U.S. government by catching a few known
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terrorists, but "allowing Osama Bin Laden to go free." Raising the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Dulat said he felt Pakistan was guilty of taking part, and that they now regret it. "The fallout was too big," he said, inferring that terrorism has lessened since then as a result. "They are trying to make amends," he mused, adding "any step forward should be welcomed on both sides."
6. (C) Raising the GOP's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) strategy, Ambassador Parthasarathy said he thought it was doomed as soon as Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai was named governor of the Northwest Frontier Province. Assuring Palmer that he had first-hand knowledge of this, he said, "Orakzai has a visceral hatred of the U.S. Did you strip-search him at JFK or something?"
7. (S) Pressed to expound upon his view of Pakistan's current strategy, Sahni suggested that Pakistan is waiting for the U.S. to fail. They expect the U.S. to get tired in Iraq, he indicated, and subsequently to leave the region. "If you can't handle a small country like Iraq or Afghanistan, you will leave the region alone," he theorized. "If they are successful in exhausting you," he continued, "they will seek to dominate the region themselves."
8. (S) Former RAW officer B. Raman told Palmer that the Mumbai bombing investigation had become more complicated than past investigations because the terrorist groups involved had changed their tactics to better cover their infiltration trail from Pakistan. While the Indian police were able to find a direct paper trail of the movement of the perpetrators of the 1993 Mumbai bombings through flight manifests from Karachi to Dubai to Mumbai, the investigators of the July 2006 attacks in Mumbai did not have the same evidence. He said those involved in the attacks went first through Iran by road so there would be no record of their travel from Bahawalpur, Pakistan, to Tehran. He said the intelligence services had strong evidence, however, of a connection between the attack and Lashkar-i-Taiba training camps in Bahawalpur.
9. (S) Raman also said the terrorists had used Bangladesh as a final infiltration route into India. He said there was an increasing problem of infiltration of Pakistan-based terrorist groups into India through the porous border with Bangladesh. When Palmer asked if the Bangladeshi government had been cooperative in cracking down on these groups, he opined that their action had been superficial at best. Even though they had arrested several major terrorist leaders, the real work still needed to be done to disrupt the groups fully. Although much of their support was Pakistan-based, there was still an indigenous cadre in Bangladesh. Most of all, he noted, the Bangladeshi government has done little against the madrassas that foment violence and extremism. Ultimately, he said, this is a problem with Bangladeshi intelligence because they are unwilling or unable to stop the groups' activities.
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India's Shortcomings on Counterterrorism
10. (C) Dr. Sahni warned that India has fallen short on counterterrorism, opining that counterterrorism laws in the country are diluted. In addition, he referred to India's policing system as the "weakest in the world," reporting that there are no qualified police to do forensics, there are only two forensic labs, and there is no national database to track terrorists. "The judicial system is broken," he added, commenting "at the end of the day, you can't punish a terrorist in India." He also cited so-called "encounter killings," the practice by which suspected criminals are killed without trial, as an issue obstructing the fight against terror. Ultimately, in Indian policy there is too much talking and not enough action, according to Sahni.
11. (C) On Indo-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation, Sahni suggested that the U.S. and India should work together on counterterrorism committees. Dulat also expressed a need for greater cooperation between the two countries, arguing that the respective intelligence agency heads should meet regularly.
12. (S) Raman talked in general about the international war against terrorism and the need to see the issue from a global perspective. He noted that India had learned much during its long history of fighting insurgencies, including in Kashmir and Punjab. He said you cannot beat terrorists, you have to make them wither away. He said India had learned that it takes many years to win this kind of battle because you can't just end it in the short term, unless you use overwhelming force to crush the insurgents. As democracies, he said, we can't just use that kind of force, so we have to have a longer-term view. He urged that the U.S. take a global view of the terrorist threat, noting that for example, many of the terrorists now emerging in Thailand studied in Pakistani madrassas and many Pakistan-based terrorist groups -- including Lashkar-i-Taiba and Harakat-ul Mujahideen -- are now obtaining funding in the Gulf.
13. (C) Dulat expressed concern about growing contacts between the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Wahabi groups among Indian expatriates. "There are more than 3 million Indians in the Gulf alone," he said, "more than half of whom are Muslim." These links and the consequent influence of the Wahabists are greater in southern India than in the north, he added. Dulat urged the U.S. and India to increase collection efforts on these groups and share information gathered.
COMMENT: Focus Remains on Pakistan
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14. (C) Indian commentators and government officials appear to share the view that government of Pakistan "state sponsorship of terrorism" would cease if only the U.S. would increase pressure on Musharraf. Anxiety over the U.S. commitment to the fight in Afghanistan is also a resounding theme we've been hearing for months. Indians seem unwilling to take the U.S. (and NATO) at their word on their commitment to stay in the conflict zone and stabilize the country. The tide of joint counterterrorism efforts, however, seems to be turning, with the experts in the field encouraging the U.S. and India to cooperate more closely. Post has reported (reftels) on meetings with the MEA and MHA, in which they told Palmer a new counterterrorism directorate would be formed in the MEA to help step up Indo-U.S. coordination on fighting terror. END COMMENT.
15. (U) S/CT Deputy Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Virginia Palmer cleared this cable.