Post-Mumbai attacks, U.S., Indian and Pakistani investigators cooperated more than was publicly disclosed.

Pakistan and India cooperated in the 2008 Mumbai attack investigations far more than they publicly disclosed.

India suspended the Composite Dialogue after the 26/11 attacks and dismissed the Pakistan proposal for a joint investigation. While both sides publicly engaged in mutual recrimination and accused each other of non-cooperation in bringing culprits to book, behind the scenes they were sharing information through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

But the cooperation could have gone further than that. A cable accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks indicates that Indian and Pakistani intelligence officials may have even held a trilateral meeting with U.S. officials to discuss the case.

It is not known for certain if the meeting was held. But it is clear from the June 2, 2009 cable (209723: secret/noforn), sent by U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Peter Burleigh, that a trilateral meeting was scheduled for July 6, 2009, in the U.S.

The cable mainly conveys Indian anger at the release of Laskhar-e-Taiba/Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed after the Lahore High Court struck down his detention as “illegal” on June 2, 2009.

The release would fan suspicions in India about Pakistan's willingness to crack down on India-focussed terror groups and the sincerity of the Mumbai investigation, the U.S. official wrote. It would also “nearly certainly” set back efforts to get the two sides to hold bilateral talks at a political level, he predicted.

Despite this, the cable noted, Indian officials were looking forward to a planned July 6 trilateral meeting in the U.S.

“In meeting with LegAtt [Legal Attache, an FBI post in U.S. diplomatic missions] on June 2, Indian Joint Directors of the Intelligence Bureau reiterated that they hope to meet with their Pakistani counterpart investigators at a trilateral meeting in the US on July 6,” Mr. Burleigh noted.

But it is clear India continued to mistrust Pakistani intentions despite the backroom cooperation.

The IB officials, who are not named in the cable, told the Legal Attache that they “believe the FIA is trying to do the right thing, but predict they will be stopped by other elements in the Pakistani government if they get close to achieving successful prosecutions.”

According to the cable, the Indian officials stressed that Pakistan had shared no information with India and pointed out that not even the FBI had been able to gain access to the detainees in Pakistan.

It noted that the FBI had obtained extensive access to Ajmal Amir Kasab, the surviving 26/11 gunman. “Reported claims by Pakistani officials that Saeed's releasewas due to a lack of cooperation from India will rankle even more in this context.”

The idea of the trilateral meeting appears to have originated in a conversation between National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and FBI Director Robert Mueller in New Delhi on March 3.

A cable that U.S. Charge d'Affaires Steven White sent on March 4, 2009 (195175: secret) on that meeting, detailed that Mr. Narayanan called for “broader, real-time, effective co-operation, to include work between [Indian and U.S.] intelligence agencies” rather than just the existing “good liaison work” between their law-enforcement agencies.

When the FBI chief raised Islamabad's suggestion to conduct a joint investigation with India into the Mumbai attacks with Pakistan, the NSA “dismissed the idea” saying the “timing is not right” given the levels of mutual suspicion.

He sounded off on how the existing Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism between the two countries was meant to be a vehicle for information-sharing but had not yielded tangible results.

NSA suggestion

Mr. Narayanan felt that Pakistan could conduct its own investigation, asserting that if the government was not complicit with the terrorists, it should want to investigate and prosecute those responsible. As India gets “two to three” intercepts a day on possible terrorist activity, the NSA added that the joint investigation the Pakistanis were offering should be “across the board,” and not just in response to Mumbai. In any case, he ruled out sharing the information with Pakistan at that time.

“Rather than joint investigations, Narayanan encouraged the U.S. to continue to play the role of honest broker in the Mumbai investigation. In response to the Director's suggestion that perhaps India and Pakistan could send investigators to Washington to work together, rather than in India, Narayanan said he could consider it,” the cable noted.