Pakistan and India have begun sharing intelligence on Islamic extremists, with the prodding of the U.S., in an arrangement that represents unprecedented cooperation between the two nuclear-armed South Asian nations, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Washington hopes the cooperation will get a lift from last week's Indian elections, in which the incumbent Congress Party won by a wide margin over a Hindu nationalist party traditionally more hostile to Pakistan.
The Central Intelligence Agency arranged for Pakistan and India to share information on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group widely blamed for last November's terrorist attack on Mumbai, as well as on Taliban commanders who are leading the insurgency against Pakistan's government, said U.S. officials.
The U.S. is stressing to Indian and Pakistani leaders that they face a common threat in Pakistan-based militant groups. Washington hopes that when India sees the intelligence and evidence that Islamabad is seriously fighting the militants in some areas, it will ease its deployments against Pakistan — which in turn would prompt Islamabad to put even more focus on the battle at home.
"We have to satisfy the Mumbai question, and show India that the threat is abating," said a U.S. official involved in developing Washington's South Asia strategy.
India and Pakistan traded military threats across their border in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, in which terrorists left more than 170 people dead. The CIA and U.S. diplomats tried to ease the tension, urging Pakistan to crack down on the sources of the attack. Pakistan banned Lashkar and detained six people in connection with the attack, partially mollifying Indian outrage.
Intelligence sharing on Mumbai has led to a somewhat more frequent exchange of information, U.S. and Pakistani officials said. India and Pakistan have shared "a lot" of information with each other about the Mumbai attack, said an official at Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency. He said the CIA was initially used as a conduit but the two countries now work directly with each other, while keeping the CIA in the loop.