Friday, November 20, 2009



The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of the Government of India is reported to have entrusted the newly-created National Intelligence Agency (NIA) with the task of follow-up investigation into the presence, travels and activities of David Coleman Headley, an American national of Chicago, and Tawahuur Hussain Rana, a Canadian national resident in Chicago, in India since 2006 and after the terrorist attack of 26/11 in Mumbai by 10 Pakistani members of the Lashksar-e-Toiba (LET).

2. Preliminary investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation between October,2008, and October 2,2009, brought out their suspected links with the LET. It also brought out that they were part of a conspiracy sought to be orchestrated from Pakistan to carry out a terrorist attack against a Danish journal, which had published cartoons of the Prophet in 2005, and a new terrorist strike in India by the LET. Both of them are of Pakistani origin.

3. Acting on preliminary evidence, which consisted largely of technical intercepts of the telephone and E-mail communications of the two, the FBI had arrested Headley on October 3,2009 and Rana on October 16,2009. According to the affidavits filed by the FBI in a Chicago court, Headley has waived his right against self-incrimination and has been talking voluntarily to the FBI interrogators.

4. The affidavits, which are available to the public, contain only that evidence which justified the decision to arrest and interrogate them. Evidence obtained during the still on-going interrogation, which would be necessary to prosecute them, has not been disclosed to the public. As and when one phase of the interrogation is over, evidence obtained during that phase is being put in a sealed cover and deposited with the court to enable the court to decide on the FBI's applications for further detention of the two suspects.

5. The FBI will be interrogating them from two angles---- their plans for future terrorist strikes and their activities in India before and after 26/11 in order to see whether they had any role in the terrorist attacks of 26/11 in which US nationals were among the foreigners killed.

6. While the US law and courts may not come in the way of the FBI sharing with India and Denmark information obtained during the interrogation which would enable the Indian and Danish Police to prevent future attacks, the FBI may not have a free hand at present in sharing with India any evidence pertaining to their role, if any, in the 26/11 terrorist attacks.

7.Any information obtained by the FBI relating to 26/11 from the two suspects has to be got verified by the FBI though the Indian NIA. For that purpose, the FBI will have to share even this information with the NIA. From its side, the FBI has taken care to see that none of the information being disclosed by the suspects during the interrogation leaks to the media and the public. The US media, which is more responsible than the Indian media, has refrained from publishing speculative stories relating to their interrogation so that the suspects continue to speak voluntarily to their interrogators.

8. Many sections of the Indian media have not been observing such restraint. There has been frenzied speculation and some journalists----in their attempts to sound more credible than others---- are even claiming to have obtained their information from "FBI sources", which one finds it difficult to believe.

9. If this kind of ill-advised speculation continues, it may come in the way of the FBI being able to share with India all the information that comes to its notice about the past and the future. The Government should caution its officials against talking to the media about the progress of the investigation and also issue an advisory to the media against frenzied speculation, which could be exploited by the lawyers of the two suspects to argue that the sharing of the information by the FBI with the Indian agencies might affect the legal rights of their clients. (21-11-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )



The following are the comments sent by me on the subject mentioned above in response to a query from a US think-tank:

How to address a complex mix of interests, concerns and policy preoccupations in a manner that will retain the US influence in the Af-Pak region without jeopardising the beginnings of its strategic presence and influence in India? That is the question that will be before Obama and his advisers during their talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. They have not found an answer to this dilemma and hence the spotlight more on style than on substance.

Efforts will be made to make India amenable to a resumption of the composite dialogue with Pakistan and to be more responsive to Pakistani concerns relating to Afghanistan.Will Obama use a promise of US support for India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council as a lollipop in return for Indian gestures to Pakistan?

The limitations on the US ability and willingness to make Pakistan address India's concerns on terrorism have been amply demonstrated time and again. To expect that Manmohan Singh will respond to US entreaties in the absence of a demonstrated US ability to make Pakistan act may be unrealistic.

Common concerns over China brought India and the US together under the Bush Administration. With Obama projecting China as a benign power and not as a power to be concerned about, China will no longer be a uniting factor between the two countries.

There is considerable confusion about Obama in India. He has clearly accorded a pre-eminent role to China not only in the rest of Asia, but even in South Asia. He is reluctant to act against Pakistan as vigorously as India would like him to.India is still keeping its fingers crossed as to whether he would keep up his promise to adhere to the commitments made by the Bush Administration on civil nuclear co-operation and transfer of dual-use technology.

During Manmohan Singh's visit to the US in July,2005, Bush managed to establish an excellent personal chemistry with him, which has served well the Indo-US relations.Obama's interactions with his foreign interlocutors have clearly brought out his inability to establish such personal chemistry. Indian policy-makers and analysts have, therefore been cautious in their expectations from the visit.( 20-11-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )