Cablegate: Mumbai Terror Attacks: Political Fallout Continues
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHNE #3031/01 3361354
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 011354Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4458
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7184
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1048
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 5560
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 2910
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1374
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5917
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 7236
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 7984
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL
Monday, 01 December 2008, 13:54
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 NEW DELHI 003031
FOR PRINCIPALS FROM AMBASSADOR MULFORD
EO 12958 DECL: 12/01/2018
TAGS PGOV, PTER, PHUM, PREL, PINR, KDEM, KISL, PK, IN
SUBJECT: MUMBAI TERROR ATTACKS: POLITICAL FALLOUT CONTINUES
REF: A. NEW DELHI 3025 B. NEW DELHI 3024 C. NEW DELHI 3018 D. MUMBAI 550
Classified By: Ambassador David C. Mulford for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary: A day after the Home Minister was sacked, the impact of the Mumbai tragedy continued to play out domestically and in the Indo-Pakistan relationship. There is likely to be a shakeup in the Maharashtra state government today. At an all-party meeting, the Prime Minister unveiled a number of steps to strengthen the capacity of the Indian security agencies to combat terrorism. The opposition parties and allies used the meeting to bash the Congress Party over the Mumbai attacks. Most observers believe that the removal of a few political officials and announcement of new steps to combat terror will not restore the confidence of the people in the government’s ability to protect them. The Indian public remains angry towards Pakistan as it increasingly appears that a Pakistani-based terrorist group was the culprit behind the attacks. There were no new GOI complaints or accusations over the Pakistani ties of the terrorists. Most observers believe that bilateral ties will suffer but that the GOI will use diplomatic pressure rather than military confrontation to respond to the Mumbai attacks. End Summary.
2. (C) The fallout of the Mumbai terror attacks continued on November 30-December 1 as the Prime Minister and the Congress Party tried to contain the political damage. The facade of all political parties coming together to present a united front to confront the tragedy lasted only a day. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), other opposition parties and the Congress Party’s own allies began to aggressively pound the Congress Party for the intelligence failure that allowed the Mumbai attacks to occur.
3. (C) Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister R.R. Patil submitted his resignation after the media vilified him for his public remarks that sought to belittle the Mumbai tragedy. His party boss, Indian Agriculture Minister and head of the Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar, asked Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to accept the resignation. Deshmukh himself is under fire and unlikely to survive. Besides being the chief executive of the state when the attacks took place, he was accused of “disaster tourism” when he visited the Taj hotel site with his actor son and a well-known filmmaker in tow. Congress Party insiders in Delhi like Verappa Moily and Abhishek Singhvi publicly criticized him for the visit. Sandeep Puri of the Congress Party told Poloff on December 1 that Deshmukh would resign that same day.
PM Unveils New Measures
4. (U) At a five-hour all-party meeting that lasted late into the night of November 30, the Prime Minister announced a series of steps the GOI will take to strengthen the country’s capacity to combat terrorism:
-- establishing a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to play a leading role in fighting terrorism;
-- enacting stronger laws to allow security agencies to more effectively fight terrorism;
-- enhancing maritime and air security by strengthening the surveillance and interdiction capabilities of the navy, the
NEW DELHI 00003031 002 OF 004
coast guard, the coastal police, the air force and the civil aviation ministry;
-- increasing the size of the National Security Guard and establishing four hubs in addition the one site outside of Delhi where it is currently located.
5. (SBU) The PM came under attack from all sides at the all-party meeting. The two top BJP leaders, L.K. Advani and Rajnath Singh, skipped the meeting and sent former Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and Deputy Leader of the Opposition V.K. Malhotra instead. Jaswant Singh and Malhotra condemned the UPA’s “non-serious approach” and demanded the immediate convening of Parliament. They said the GOI was too preoccupied with fighting fictitious “Hindu terror” to protect the country against real terror. The Left parties criticized the proposal to strengthen the legal framework. They also demanded that National Security Advisor and other bureaucrats responsible for internal security be fired.
“Cosmetic” and “Too Little, Too Late”
6. (SBU) The BJP also increased its pressure publicly, demanding that the government quit over its responsibility for the Mumbai tragedy. On the Home Minister’s sacking, BJP’s Arun Jaitely said, “It is too little, too late. The entire government should go.” BJP spokesman Prakash Javedkar said :”We want the whole UPA government to go lock, stock and barrel and let the people decide what approach the country should adopt against terrorism.”
7. (C) Former Ambassador V.K. Grover told Poloff that the removal of the Home Minister was overdue. “These changes will not satisfy the people. They are only cosmetic. People want real action. They have lost confidence in the government. They see it as a weak government. It will get a drubbing in the elections.” XXXXXXXXXXXX said that all these steps “are cosmetic.” He accused the government of not having the will to go after terrorists because of vote bank politics. XXXXXXXXXXXX defended Sonia Gandhi, saying that the resignation of the Home Minister was intended to “restore confidence among the people.” XXXXXXXXXXXX told Poloff: “Mumbai attacks can be described as the last wake-up call for the Indian nation-state which has been soft-pedaling the issue for long.”
Public Remains Angry at Pakistan
8. (C) Although much of the attention of the Indian public and media has focused on their government’s failings, anger toward Pakistan has grown as it increasingly appears that Pakistani-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) was the culprit behind the attacks. Pakistan XXXXXXXXXXXX shared with Poloff his dismay at what he described as the Congress Party’s use of political leverage with the media to focus on and “embarrass” Pakistan. As an example he pointed out today’s Times of India which described LeT as a 100 percent-owned subsidiary of the ISI’s anti-India operations. In XXXXXXXXXXXX’s view, this damaging rhetoric is prompted by the Congress Party and discourages cooperation between the two countries as it offends Pakistan’s government.
Strikes Against Camps is as Far as They Go
9. (C) In a townhall meeting moderated by Barkha Dutt on NDTV, the audience broke into applause when one participant suggested that India strike against the training camps where
NEW DELHI 00003031 003 OF 004
the terrorists were trained. There have been few calls for military action beyond that. XXXXXXXXXXXX told Poloff that he did not advocate bombing Pakistan. He was in favor of a selective attack on a couple of training camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. In his view, this would send the right message to the perpetrators of terror.
Diplomatic Pressure Rather than Military Action
10. (C) Pakistan’s High Commission in Delhi was hopeful that the Composite Dialogue would survive the the current blow to Indo-Pakistan relations. Foreign Minister Qureshi’s meetings in Delhi last week were very positive and Pakistan, accoring to XXXXXXXXXXXX and Pakistan made a “quantum leap in its offers to India, namely on economic cooperation.” Regarding the list of tradable goods that are allowed to move through the border, Pakistan offered to move from a positive list to a negative one, which could open up trade by a substantial amount if Delhi accepts the proposal. Joint Secretary for Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran Division T.C.A. Raghavan, on 24 November - just two days before the Mumbai attacks - said to PolCouns that political parties were keen to resume the Composite Dialogue’s fifth round, specifically to address the terrorism issue. Referring to the Joint Action Terrorism Mechanism and the Composite Dialogue, Raghavan commented on the lack of progress on resolving the terrorism issues between the two countries, saying that although the institutions to discuss these issues existed, “these groups are not set up only for discussion, they must provide results”.
11. (C) But, in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, the Composite Dialogue is likely to suffer. XXXXXXXXXXXX told Poloff that although he expects bilateral tensions to increase, he does not foresee a military confrontation. He explained that due to upcoming elections, the mobilization of troops at the border is unlikely. Instead he sees India exerting strong diplomatic pressure. XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed, saying he did not expect this government to build up troops on the border or to take any other tough military measures. He anticipated diplomatic steps such as closing of trade and transit routes. He suggested the U.S. apply pressure on Pakistan to clamp down on the LeT and to bring to book criminals like Dawood.
12. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX opined that the PM and Sonia Gandhi do not want to take any hasty steps against Pakistan, so there is unlikely to be any troop build up along the borders. In XXXXXXXXXXXX view, the GOI would take steps such as scrapping the cricket series (already cancelled) and closing trade routes and then “turn it over to the Americans to build up pressure on Pakistan.” XXXXXXXXXXXX of the Congress Party said that the party was not in favor of any troop build up on the borders with Pakistan but would consider some stern political message to scale up the diplomatic pressure. In his view, the bus service and the train service could be suspended followed by closing of transit routes and, possibly, air routes. XXXXXXXXXXXX offered the opinion that the Confidence Building Measures that Pakistan and India had worked on within the Composite Dialogue are now in danger and the peace process will be jeopardized as a result of the attacks.
Pakistan Mission Praises GOI For Restraint
13. (C) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX , the media’s portrayal of how the events will negatively affect the bilateral relationship will fizzle out over the next few months. He praised the Indian Government for acting “more responsibly and maturely” than it did after the bombing
NEW DELHI 00003031 004 OF 004
of India’s embassy in Kabul, describing GOI’s reaction as impulsive and politically motivated when it immediately pinned blame on Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
14. (C) Before the Mumbai attacks there existed a standing offer by Pakistan to have the two countries’ intelligence chiefs cooperate, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX but this offer was retrieved after the media portrayed Prime Minister Singh’s offer to the ISI Chief Ahmad Pasha to visit Delhi to cooperate on the investigation as a “summons”. XXXXXXXXXXXX expressed dismay at what he described as the Congress Party’s use of political leverage with the media to focus on and “embarrass” Pakistan. XXXXXXXXXXXX
Comment: No Military Confrontation Anticipated
15. (C) Despite the strong diplomatic rhetoric we expect to see in the next several months, the chances of a military confrontation are being played down by most. The signposts of such a military conflict are absent: there has been no mobilization of troops at the border, ambassadors have not been recalled nor have there been requests by either side for a reduction in the number of diplomatic staff. Road, rail, and airlinks are still operative.
Comment: Not a Good Time to be the Ruling Party
16. (C) There is increasing agreement between political analysts that the sacking of the Home Minister and announcement of the new measures to beef up the country’s terror fighting capacity are not assuaging the public’s anger at the government and its perceived callousness in protecting them. People ask why these steps were not taken four years ago when this government assumed office. Rage at the government over the Mumbai attacks has also served as a catharsis for people to vent other long simmering grievances against government - its corruption, its pompous use of symbols of authority like security guards and vehicle sirens, its indifference to providing health and education services, and its paralysis on building infrastructure. MULFORD