America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has played a crucial role in India and Pakistan sharing secret intelligence information on Mumbai terrorist attacks,a media report claimed on Monday.
In a front page article,The Washington Post said CIA “orchestrated back-channel intelligence exchanges” between India and Pakistan with the top American intelligence agency itself playing the role of a neutral arbitrator.
“The exchanges,which began days after the deadly assault in late November,gradually helped the two sides overcome mutual suspicions and paved the way for Islamabad’s announcement last week acknowledging that some of the planning for the attack had occurred on Pakistani soil,The Post quoted sources as saying.
On November 26 last year,183 people,including American nationals,were shot dead by Pakistani terrorists who entered Mumbai through sea. Only one of the Pakistani terrorists involved in the attack was captured by the Indian security forces and is in the custody of Mumbai police.
Referring to interviews with sources in the US and foreign government,the newspaper said the intelligence went well beyond the public revelations about the ten Mumbai terrorists,and included sophisticated communications intercepts and an array of physical evidence detailing how the gunmen and their supporters planned and executed their three-day killing spree in Mumbai.
“Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies separately shared their findings with the CIA,which relayed the details while also vetting the intelligence and filling in blanks with gleanings from its networks,” the Post quoted sources as saying.
“The US role was described in interviews with Pakistani officials and confirmed by US sources with detailed knowledge of the arrangement. The arrangement is ongoing,and it is unknown whether it will continue after the Mumbai case is settled,” the newspaper said.
The Post article is a revelation as so far only the role of FBI in the Mumbai investigation was known.
Terming the sharing of intelligence information between the two South Asian neighbours as unparallel,The Post said this signalled a thawing of tensions between the two countries.
“India shared evidence bilaterally,but that’s not what cinched it,” a senior Pakistani official familiar with the exchanges was quoted as saying. “It was the details,shared between intelligence agencies,with the CIA serving mainly as a bridge,” the official said.
Observing that intelligence has been a good bridge,a US official was quoted as saying: “Everyone on the American side went into this with their eyes open,aware of the history,the complexities,the tensions. But at least the two countries are talking,not shooting.”