Cablegate: Scenesetter: India Counter-Terrorism Joint Working
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Friday, 23 February 2007, 11:41
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 06 NEW DELHI 000909
EO 12958 DECL: 02/07/2017
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PTER, PINR, PBTS, MOPS, KDEM, KISL, KTFN,
EFIN, ECON, ASEC, KCRM, PK, IN
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER: INDIA COUNTER-TERRORISM JOINT WORKING
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Classified By: DCM Geoffrey Pyatt, Reason 1.5 (B,D)
1. (S) Summary: Embassy New Delhi warmly welcomes the visit of Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Frank Urbancic, and looks forward to adding dynamism to the India-U.S. Counter-Terrorism Joint Working Group (CTJWG) and developing an atmosphere where ideas and information are easily exchanged by both sides in an atmosphere of trust. Goals for the CTJWG include better integration of efforts regarding bioterrorism, money laundering, terrorist financing, tracking terrorist movements, law enforcement, border security, and information sharing/operational cooperation. The GOI’s traditional concerns over U.S. engagement with Pakistan and longstanding distrust left over from the Cold War-era between our intelligence communities have been difficult to overcome. However, the sustained increase in acts of violence by political and religious extremists in India have demanded better cooperation on counter-terrorism. In a recent meeting, your counterpart, Ministry of External Affairs Additional Secretary (International Organizations) KC Singh, mentioned favorably the idea of semi-annual meetings between GOI and S/CT, and he clearly sees the U.S. CT relationship as among India’s most important. Improving our counter-terrorism cooperation is a crucial step in building the strategic relationship President Bush envisions with India, and your visit offers us an excellent chance to do so. End Summary.
Reviving a Stalled Working Group
2. (S) Your visit comes nearly a year after the last U.S.-India CTJWG, which was held in Washington in May 2006. Although the working group was supposed to be held regularly throughout the year, it has stalled until now for two important reasons. The first was a scandal in New Delhi in summer 2006, in which our primary working-level CT interlocutor at the Indian National Security Council was arrested and charged with treason for allegedly passing information to the United States. Although there is little truth to the espionage accusations, the scandal cast a negative shadow over the CTJWG, and slowed further discussions for several months. In a recent discussion with the DCM, KC Singh raised this scandal again, noting that it was impacting his effort to build a U.S.-India dialogue on cyber terrorism. Second, Indian officials were extremely concerned about the August 2006 agreement between Pakistani officials and Waziri tribesmen in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas because of their ongoing concern about Afghanistan’s stability. India’s criticism of our Counter-Terror cooperation with Pakistan reached a new intensity after the Waziristan agreement, as Indian officials bitterly accused their U.S. CT counterparts of failing to take India’s concerns into account in allowing the agreement to go forward. Since then we have worked to reduce these tensions, and U/S Burns’ visit to New Delhi, accompanied by Virginia Palmer, in December 2006 went a long way in this regard. We have also worked across the inter-agency spectrum to share more information with India. The next step is to revive the CTJWG and work to expand our operational CT cooperation.
Bringing India on Board to Expand our Counter-Terror Cooperation
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3. (S) India’s lingering zero-sum suspicion of U.S. policies towards Pakistan, its fiercely independent foreign policy stance, its traditional go-it-alone strategy toward its security, and its domestic political sensitivities over the sentiments of its large Muslim population, have all contributed to India’s caution in working with us on a joint counter-terrorism strategy. While India has been very keen to receive information and technology from us to further its counter-terrorism efforts, India provides little in return, despite our belief that the country should be an equal partner in this relationship. India frequently rebuffs our offers of support for their police investigations of terrorist attacks, and our offers of training and support are often met with a stalled logistical pace. For example, our Legatt offered forensic and investigative support to India in the wake of the Samjauta Train bombings, but India refused. One of the most important tasks we will have with India at the CTJWG is to reinforce that we must make this relationship reciprocal. We must keep in mind that it will be a slow process to build the kind of trust necessary with India to achieve the relationship that we are seeking, but we must reinforce to our Indian counterparts the positive direction we seek for our partnership.
4. (S) Another consideration to keep in mind is that our perception of India’s lack of cooperation on U.S. CT concerns often stems in part from India’s lack of capacity to manage these issues bureaucratically. India just this month began to stand up a Counter-Terrorism Cell in the MEA’s office of International Organizations. The Cell was put in place largely to manage India’s new Counter-Terrorism Joint Mechanism with Pakistan, including bringing India’s intelligence agencies in line with the Prime Minister’s thinking on India’s relations with Pakistan. This Cell will now bring five additional people on board to manage these issues, although all of the arrangements are still being handled by just two officers. Additionally, India’s police and security forces are overworked and hampered by bad police practices, including the wide-spread use of torture in interrogations, rampant corruption, poor training, and a general inability to conduct solid forensic investigations. India’s most elite security forces also regularly cut corners to avoid working through India’s lagging justice system, which has approximately 13 judges per million people. Thus Indian police officials often do not respond to our requests for information about attacks or our offers of support because they are covering up poor practices, rather than rejecting our help outright.
5. (S) That said, using every opportunity available to signal our interest in learning from India -- which has successfully tackled “asymmetrical” insurgencies in Punjab and Kashmir -- will go a long way to reduce this distrust and may prompt Indian officials to be more receptive to our offers of support. There is much India could offer us of value to strengthen our counter-terrorism efforts. For instance, they can give us more information about the nature of the terrorist threat in India and South Asia, and help us develop new strategies for defeating terrorists derived from India’s experience in Kashmir. They also may have information about Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Sri Lankan, and Pakistani terrorists that they could share.
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Relations with Pakistan
6. (S) Your visit comes a little over a week after the horrific bombing of the Samjauta (“Friendship”) Train between New Delhi, India and Lahore, Pakistan. Most of the 68 killed in the fires that destroyed two of the train’s coaches were lower-middle class Pakistani mohajirs (emigrants from India) who came to India to visit relatives after years of separation. While investigations continue to find the culprits, the Indian press is hinting that Lashkar-e-Taiba or another Pakistan-based terrorist group was behind the attacks. If this is true, it would not be the first time that Pakistan-based terrorists have killed fellow Sunni Muslims on Indian soil. Police investigators tell us that all of the evidence India has found in the September 2006 attacks in a Sunni mosque in Malegon points to Lashkar-e-Taiba, which, along with the Pakistan-based terrorist groups such as Jaish-e-Muhammad, HUM, is trying to foment religious tension as a means of boosting recruitment and hindering Indo-Pak peace efforts.
7. (S) Despite bombings in Panipat, Malegon, Mumbai, Varanassi, Delhi and Kashmir in the past year, this year marks probably the closest period of friendship between India and Pakistan since their Independence from Great Britain in 1947. The two countries are working closer to resolve their dispute over Kashmir, and even amidst the tragedy of the train bombing Pakistani Foreign Minister Kasuri traveled to New Delhi on February 20th to continue the Composite Dialogue. Both sides have signaled their strong intention to continue with talks, despite the terrorists’ efforts to disrupt the peace process. Nonetheless, India remains frustrated with Pakistan’s seeming inaction against terrorist groups in Pakistan, who have launched multiple attacks in India’s heartland. Near weekly arrests of terrorists here are a constant reminder that these groups are working to establish sleeper cells in India as relations with Pakistan continue to improve. India is also concerned about infiltration of Pakistani terrorists through Bangladesh and Nepal, as well as local terrorists’ connections to Iraq, Afghanistan, and al-Qaida. India and Pakistan are holding their first Counter-Terrorism Joint Mechanism meeting on March 6th in Islamabad to build better dialogue on these issues. This Mechanism is designed to keep talks going between India and Pakistan regardless of continued terrorist attacks, and it is important that the Indian press does not confuse our Counter-Terrorism Joint Working Group with the India-Pakistan Counter-Terrorism Joint-Mechanism.
8. (S) Despite India’s progress with Pakistan, Indian officials continue to advise us that our direct intervention in Indo-Pak negotiations could hamper the Prime Minister’s efforts to move the process forward. Opposition BJP leaders charge frequently that India is selling out on Kashmir or soft on Pakistan at the behest of the U.S. Indian officials are extremely tight-lipped about the negotiations between the two countries, and they often bristle at any outside government’s attempt to push the process forward.
Your Meeting with NSA Narayanan
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9. (S) One very important meeting we are scheduling for you for Thursday, March 1st, is with National Security Advisor MK Narayanan. As a former intelligence official, no other senior Congress Party leader has more influence over PM Singh and party chief Sonia Gandhi’s decision making on national security issues than Narayanan. Narayanan is traditionally tough-talking, and will speak his mind about how he sees our CT cooperation progressing. This will be an opportunity to stress our interest in making the relationship more reciprocal, and we will provide you with a list of all of the information we have passed to the GOI in recent months with a direct comparison to what we have received in return. You should tell Narayanan that we are overcoming our concerns, and we seek similar improvement of attitudes in the Indian security agencies, whose paranoia remains undiminished.
Important Points for the CTJWG
10. (S) South Asia terrorism issues: KC Singh is taking the lead on this session, and may use the opportunity to talk about India’s concerns about Pakistan even as the Composite Dialogue moves ahead. He will likely brief you on the terrorist groups operating in Pakistan that are launching attacks in India. He will also discuss India’s concern about stability in Afghanistan. This may be an opportunity to discuss our strategy in Afghanistan in response to the anticipated Taliban Spring offensive as well as preparations for the SAARC meetings in New Delhi on April 3-4. You should stress that the U.S. and India have common goals against terrorists in South Asia, that we believe groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba have become a global threat, one that we all face with India. You could also stress our efforts -- through both engagement and pressure -- to press Pakistan to crack down on all of the terrorist groups operating on its soil, as well as our continued concern about infiltration through Bangladesh and Nepal, and the progress we have seen in Islamabad’s CT cooperation.
11. (S) Middle East terrorism issues: You are taking the lead on this session. India is very concerned about the security situation in Iraq, partially because of a concern that instability and sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims there will spill over into India. With Iran, India has had some recent differences over the nuclear issue. Nonetheless, India enjoys fairly good relations with most countries in the Middle East, including Israel, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, and India may be a positive partner for the U.S. in bringing stability to the region. KC Singh was Ambassador in Tehran, and can give you superb insight on the Iranian regime.
12. (S) Bioterrorism: You will make a few remarks and then XXXXXXXXXXXX
will take over the presentation. We have a number of efforts in place to discuss bioterrorism issues and biosecurity, including a proposal from 2005 for a joint exercise in response to a bioterrism attack. Our Indian counterparts have signaled their interest to press ahead with these programs.
13. (S) WMD Terrorism: You will make a few remarks on this session, and then hand the discussions off to XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX. Our Indian counterparts are likely to remain silent during this session, although they have said they will
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listen to the presentation, and KC Singh may respond briefly. These discussions could impact the ongoing negotiations over the U.S.-India nuclear deal, and Indian officials want to avoid any discussion of safeguarding their nuclear material. They will not have the permission necessary from higher-level officials to address this issue at all in response to our briefing.
14. (S) ATA Training and Law Enforcement Cooperation: You will begin the discussion and then our RSO will continue with his briefing. We need more cooperation and, frankly, openness from the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to achieve this program’s full potential.
15. (S) The delegation will participate in informal working-level break out sessions over lunch with our Indian hosts. This may be an opportunity to discuss any outstanding issues from the previous sessions with KC Singh, and raise our concerns about Indian bureaucratic inertia and paranoia.
16. (S) Terrorism Finance and Anti-Money Laundering Legislation: KC Singh will lead this session, and XXXXXXXXXXXX will provide our response. Discussion will be focused on prompting the GOI to improve their anti-money laundering regime and compliance with international standards under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to combat incidents of terrorism financing. GOI is currently participating as a FATF observer for the first time at the ongoing FATF Plenary meeting from February 19-23. We want to use the CTJWG platform to listen to GOI’s growing concerns about terrorist financing for future consideration to provide relevant technical assistance.
17. (S) Biometrics and Border Security: You will begin this session and then hand the discussions off to XXXXXXXXXXXX.
18. (S) Airline/Airport Security and Anti-Hijacking Policy: KC Singh will lead this session. He may discuss some of the various threats India has seen lately to its commercial airlines. He will likely follow up on our previous offer of assistance and anti-hijacking training, as well as India’s new hijacking policy, which would affect direct flights by Delta, American, Continental, and Northwest airlines.
19. (S) Ideological Dimensions of Countering Terrorism: KC Singh will lead this session. He will likely discuss India’s frustrations in dealing with Pakistan on terrorism issues. He may, however, initiate a more in-depth discussion of Prime Minister Singh’s efforts on behalf of those who are disenfranchised among India’s Muslim population. The purpose of this session is to initiate a discussion on local facilitators of terrorist attacks in India by the country’s minority Muslim population, and to learn from India’s many decades of experience in this area. 20. (S) Information Sharing and Enhancing Cooperation: This will be a closed-door discussion of our efforts to increase intelligence sharing. This may be the most crucial segment of the discussion, and ORA will take the lead in the presentation. Our RSO may also discuss our efforts to gain more information from the GOI about terrorist threats to US interests in India and sharing of information about arrests of terrorist suspects. The GOI will likely discuss a new
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point of contact the MEA is establishing in the new CT Cell to answer these questions.
21. (S) The meetings will be followed by a wrap up discussion and a GOI-hosted dinner.
Summary: A Real Opportunity
22. (S) Summary: Overall your efforts in India will be an important step toward our goal of building a strategic partnership with India. Without a more effective CT component, and if India remains suspicious of our CT intentions, our overall relationship will not live up to its potential. As you approach the meetings, the most important element will be to break down the barriers we face to building a more productive partnership with our GOI counterparts, including at a working level. Our measure of success should be in taking steps forward, however small, toward achieving this operational goal. End Summary. MULFORD