AMagazine WASHINGTON: Unprecedented intelligence cooperation involving investigating agencies and spy outfits of India, United States, United Kingdom and
Israel has got underway to crack the method and motive behind the Mumbai terrorist massacre, now widely blamed on Islamist radicals who appeared to have all four countries on their hit list when they arrived on the shores of India.
Investigators, forensic analysts, counter-terrorism experts and spymasters from agencies the four countries are converging in New Delhi and Mumbai to put their heads, resources, and skills together to understand the evolving nature of the beast. The spy chief of the Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI) is also being summoned to India to help with the investigations because of the widely-held view that the terrorists' footprints go back to Pakistan.
The Bush administration has taken the lead to forge cooperation, partly out of concern that charges by India that the terror plot has Pakistani fingerprints could setback fast-improving government-to-government and people-to-people ties between the two countries, officials said.
But there is an implicit recognition both in New Delhi and Washington, and also other world capitals, that Pakistan's hard-line Army and its spy agency are spoilers of the honeymoon between the civilian governments and the people of India and Pakistan. Hence the summons to the country's chief spook, Ahmad Shuja Pasha, an acolyte of the new Army Chief Pervez Kiyani, himself a former ISI chief.
President Bush, who spent Thanksgiving Thursday at Camp David, monitored the developments in Mumbai along with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who joined him for dinner. Bush also spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offering all U.S help.
In fact, Awaz Apni reported that Washington suggested sending US Special Forces for on-the-ground operations in Mumbai but New Delhi declined the offer, saying its own forces could take care of the situation. The report could not be separately verified although officials acknowledged cooperation in investigations and intelligence sharing.
The Bush administration is also keeping President-elect Barack Obama up-to-speed on the fast moving developments. Obama spoke with Secretary Rice by phone to get an update on the situation in Mumbai. Additionally, his transition office said, the President-elect received an intelligence briefing on the attacks.
The President-elect is also receiving regular situational updates from the State Department Ops Center and the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), an Obama spokesperson added.
The multi-nation intelligence cooperation has been precipitated in part by the death of Americans, Britons, and Israelis, in the carnage. Thousands of Indians have died in terror attacks in India in the previous two decades without the world getting exercised about it, but the manner in which the terrorists who attacked Mumbai are reported to have singled out Americans and Britons, besides pointedly occupying a Jewish center, has revealed that their agenda was wider than just domestic discontent or the Kashmir issue.
Some unconfirmed reports also speak of at least two of the terrorists being British nationals of Pakistani origin, of the kind who were involved in the London underground bombing. Their attire (cargo pants and t-shirts), their heavy weaponry, and the sophisticated nature of their attack, certainly goes far beyond anything local or indigenous terror groups have displayed so far.
More significantly, none of the local groups have targeted Americans, Britons, and Israelis with the kind of specific intent as the current set of terrorists did. While US officials are concerned about the possibility of the new warmth in ties between India and Pakistan dissipating because of the gravity of the charges from New Delhi, there is also a recognition and acknowledgment that India's anger is directed against the hard-line elements in the Pakistani Army and its surrogates in the ISI, and not the civilian government or the people of Pakistan.
In fact, Washington itself has been trying to get Pakistan's civilian government to get a grip on the ISI, which many believe is now infiltrated by rogue elements.
That joint effort by Washington and the civilian dispensation in Islamabad has been repeatedly thwarted by Pakistan's hard-line army which believes it is the custodian and guarantor of the Islamist ideology that keep Pakistan intact and differentiates it from India, and which the ISI as its fighting arm for a covert asymmetrical war against India. Pakistan's new President Asif Ali Zardari recently attracted the wrath of the hardliners by saying "there is a little bit of India inside every Pakistani" and presenting a no-first-use of nuclear weapons proposal to India.
The Bush administration has only lately begun to realise that the ISI is a different beast from the one which helped it defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan to end the Cold War. The first sign that the ISI had turned rogue came during 9/11 when Pakistan's spy chief who was tasked to go and ask the Taliban to surrender did exactly the opposite. India's mistrust of ISI has a longer history, with the nadir coming during the Kargil war.
But under withering scrutiny from the international community, Pakistan, which is desperately broke and begging for international aid and loans, has agreed to send the ISI chief to New Delhi with promise of cooperation. That promise will be tested in the coming days and weeks.Tag: