‘Will show seriousness of Islamabad's intent to cooperate in 26/11 investigation'

After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the United States urged Pakistan's highest officials to send the Inter-Services Intelligence chief to India, in order to demonstrate their seriousness in cooperating with New Delhi in the investigations.

Three days after the attacks, the U.S. also told Pakistan it was important to investigate if there was a “GoP”, or Government of Pakistan, link to the carnage in Mumbai. This is now a question to which the U.S. is seeking answers with David Headley, a Pakistani-origin American, set to claim in a Chicago court that the Mumbai attacks were guided by the ISI.

Diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks show that the U.S. tried hard to persuade Pakistan to stick to a November 28, 2008 decision to send the head of the ISI, Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, to India — but to no avail.

The cables are a window to the limits of U.S. influence in Pakistan, especially when it comes to relations with India.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had announced on November 28, 2008 after a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Lt. Gen. Pasha would go to India at the earliest for “an exchange of information” about the attacks.

But the government hastily reversed its decision after the Pakistan Army made clear it was opposed to the idea of sending the top intelligence man to India.

The cables reveal that the U.S. directly told the Army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that Lt. Gen. Pasha should go to Delhi.

According to one cable dated November 30, 2008 (180619: secret), during a meeting with General Kayani and Lt. Gen. Pasha on November 30, Charge d'Affaires Gerald Feierstein “urged that Kayani send Pasha to India as a sign of GOP seriousness in cooperating with the Indian investigation.”

Ambassador Anne W. Patterson was away and was to return later that day. As the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Feierstein was the Acting Ambassador. The Regional Affairs Officer (RAO) at the U.S. Embassy accompanied him to the meeting.

The Army chief, Mr. Feierstein noted, was “critical of what he considered India's rush to judgment about the details of the case, and said that as a former intelligence chief he would never have suggested that he could offer up an analysis of the events so quickly after they concluded.” Even so, “Charge pressed him several times on sending Pasha to lead the ISI delegation to India as demonstration of Pakistani seriousness.” But “Kayani was, at best, non-committal.”

The U.S. officials gave the two top Pakistan Army officials information about a Lashkar-e-Taiba individual, who the U.S. said was linked to the Deccan Mujahideen, a previously unheard of group that had claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Kayani and Pasha claimed not to recognize the name. They asked the Acting RAO for additional information on the telephone numbers related to the individual,” Mr. Feierstein noted.

The cable did not reveal the identity of the individual, and it is unclear if he was among the five persons who are currently on trial in Pakistan for their alleged involvement in the attacks.

The same unnamed individual was mentioned by Mr. Feierstein during a November 29 meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, according to a cable dated November 29, 2008 (180604: secret). He “advised [the Minister] that the U.S. was passing to ISI November 29 the name of an individual in Pakistan who was associated with the attacks; he urged that Pakistan arrest this individual.”

Mr. Qureshi asked “if this information came from the U.S.” Mr. Feierstein “confirmed that it was independent information and that the individual was associated with the group responsible for the attacks.”

The U.S. official then brought up what he described as “the core issue” of whether the Government of Pakistan was directly implicated in the attacks. He told Mr. Qureshi the U.S. “had seen no direct evidence of this to date,” but that it would be “important for the GOP to investigate whether there was any linkage.” Noting that Pakistan had publicly accepted the Indian request to send the ISI Director to New Delhi, Mr. Feierstein told Mr. Qureshi it was important that Pasha go. “ If Pasha goes to India, this will be seen as a sign of GOP seriousness to carry through on its pledges of cooperation; if not, it will be seen as a retreat and will send a very negative signal.” The U.S. official said Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice “will try to call [President Asif Ali] Zardari today and likely will deliver that same message.” He mentioned that Ambassador Patterson had delivered a similar message to Mr. Zardari in a phone call the previous night. The Pakistan Foreign Minister said he too had received a call from Assistant Secretary Boucher the previous night.

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.

The photograph for this article has been changed as the earlier photograph wrongly identified Gen. Ashfaq Kayani as Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha.