Thursday, March 18, 2010




Now that David Coleman Headley of the ChIcago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) has pleaded guilty to the charges against him regarding the Mumbai 26/11 terrorist strikes and the planned attempt to attack the offices of a Danish paper, which published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in 2005, as part of a plea bargain with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it is settled that he will not be extradited to India and that India will not be allowed to interrogate to him.

2.As a result of the plea bargain, India no longer has any locus standi in the eyes of the US law in the case. All one can hope for is that the FBI will continue to share with India whatever additional information it gets from him till he is sentenced and starts his penalty. Till then, the FBI can continue interrogating him. One can reasonably expect that the FBI will share with India whatever additional details they get from him so long as those details do not implicate Pakistan. The FBI's first priority is to have the LET held accountable for the Mumbai strikes due to its emergence as a global jihadi organisation on par with Al Qaeda. Its second priority is to see that Pakistan is not held accountable and to conceal from India any information which links the State of Pakistan with Headley.

3. What next? What are the options before India? It has been a shrewd move on the part of the Home Ministry of the Government of India to have sought access to the former wife of Headley. According to media reports, she had also visited India----sometimes with him, sometimes separately. The information at her disposal will be relevant to the case. It is doubtful whether the FBI will respond positively to the request of the Govt. of India because of a fear that she might talk to the Indian interrogators about the role of Pakistan in the terrorist attack and the links of Headley with the Inter-Services I(ntelligence (ISI). If the FBI assists us to have access to his wife, it could help in diluting some of the doubts in the minds of large sections of the India public about its bona fides in the case. If the FBI drags its feet, one's suspicions regarding the FBI's attempt to protect the Pakistani State from the legal consequences of 26/11 will be strengthened.

4. There is one other important option available to India--- that is, to seek access to Tahawwur Hussain Rana, the co-conspirator against whom a separate case has been filed. He is equally knowledgeable about the 26/11 terrorist strikes.Whereas Headley was not in India immediately before the strikes, Rana was. According to the second report against Rana filed by the FBI in the court, he was in India in the third week of November, 2008. He flew from Mumbai to Dubai on a flight of the Emirates Airlines on November 21, 2008. He flew from Dubai to China by the same Airlines on November, 24, 2008, and from there returned to Chicago via Seoul on November 26, 2008, by the Asiana Airlines. Rana had admitted to the FBI that during his visit to Dubai from November 21 to 24, 2008, he met Maj. (retd) Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed alias Pasha who was in touch with Ilyas Kashmiri on behalf of Headley and that he came to know from Pasha about the impending terrorist attacks by the LET in Mumbai. It is clear from the papers filed by the FBI in the court that Rana personally knew Maj (retd) Abdur Rehman of the 313 Brigade and an unidentified office-bearer of the LET. It is also clear that Rana was fully aware at least on September 7, 2009, if not earlier, of the LET's plans for future attacks on four targets in India. The FBI has produced in court extracts from a clandestinely recorded conversation between Headley and Rana in a car regarding future attacks in India.

5.The interrogation of Rana by the Indian investigators is thus as important as the interrogation of Headley. Whereas Headley has no relatives in India, Rana reportedly has relatives in India through his wife's family. If India can have independent access to him, it can request his Indian relatives to persuade him to talk to us. Normally, certain constraints which operated in the case of Headley should not operate in the case of Rana. Firstly, Headley is an Americam citizen whereas Rana is a Canadian citizen resident in Chicago. Secondly, at least since 1998, Headley was an agent of the US, but there has been no information to indicate any links between Rana and the US intelligence. Fears of likely exposure of his links with the US intelligence should not operate.

6. India should now press the FBI for independent access to Rana. The FBI may respond in one of the following ways:

Agree to the access. This will restore the damaged Indian confidence in the bona fides of the FBI; or

Drag its feet by claiming that since an indictment has already been filed against him, a foreign investigation agency cannot be allowed to question him independently ;or

Ask the Canadian intelligence to object to the Indian request.

7. Whatever be the ultimate response of the FBI to our request to have access to Rana, our public and leaders will know to what extent the Obama Administration is sincere in its professed desire to co-operate with India in counter-terrorism. One notices the Obama Administration following exactly the same stance as the Bill Clinton Administration did after the serial explosions in Mumbai in March 1993--- namely, extend forensic co-operation to India and share intelligence about the perpetrators, but at the same time protect the State of Pakistan from the legal consequences of its involvement in terrorism in India.

8. Compare the feet-dragging by the Obama Administration with the refreshing attitude of the George Bush Administration after the terrorist attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July 2008. It was reported that the Bush Administration took the initiative in sharing with India whatever intelligence it was able to gather about the role of the State of Pakistan in the attack. (19-3-2010)

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


KUNJI said...

It is very clear that in the new world paradigm, geo-political interests are more important that friendship or emotions. The Government of India is not sincere in its efforts (or if sincere are dumps) to run the foreign affairs of this country. They are going by a pattern that Mr. Manmohan Singh is subservient to US so the entire foreign estbalishment are to be subservient. One can make out that this Government is not serious in their efforts to formulate an independent foriegn policy that is required for a resurgent and confident India. This Government is not confident and as such fails to live up to the expectations of the people of this country. On a different note, the US and most of the western powers would like to see deep divisions in this country - on the basis of religions, political and economic aspects. Indian Governments fails to understand the logic or reasoning of western minds. Nehru didnt learn the logic of "divide and rule policy of British". That is being continued by Dr. Manmohan Singh. There is nothing to exclaim in this, it is but natural and will continue till a leader of original thoughts occupy the top slot.

ambi said...

Hi kunji I agree with your comment, but partly. I am afraid that you are underestimating the Indian system and politicians. Though many of them are mavericks, still most of them are highly qualified & best & brightest (in congress as well as bjp).Take for example kapil sibal, p chidambaram, A k Antony, Salman Khurshid, Najma heptullah, nitin gadkari, Arun jaitley to name a few. & most important name is of P M Manmohan Singh.
Though as a PM I am criticize Manmohan Singh I respect him as an Economist. He has really done some miracles as in changing India’s position on the world stage. Its wrong to assume that such bright minds can not have their independent foreign or other policies.
Of course PM has committed some mistakes still they are rectifiable. It was a litmus test of Indo-US relationship. Indians have judged their American friends, n now you ll see how India asserts it self. Junior Bush was from a political family. He had a understanding of world politics, hence it understood India’s potential & was ready to give it its rightful place in the world. Obama is a new kid on the block. He does not understand how things work in this part of the world.
Obama’s immaturity in handling foreign policy can be judged by the fact that how he has strained relationship with his most important ally Israel. Probably he should have thought twice before reacting in such a way. But damage has already been done. Probably he considers Pakistan & India alike, where he can just give orders from DC, n they ll be carried out here. India is not Pakistan. He has 4 yrs tenure. He ll learn ‘it’ in a period of time .If he thinks he can go ahead with his plans without taking into considerations India;s interest, lets see how far he goes.

Neel said...

India has nothing to offer to the US. As a result, Indians and Indian interests are expendable for the US, especially when it comes to Pakistan.

Pakistan, howsoever tarnished it may be, be it regarding nuclear proliferation to the axis of evil, double dealing with Americans regarding the taliban, it still presents the only choice for the Americans to pursue their goals.

All we can do is sing hum honge kamiyab ek din and present dossiers.

ambi said...

hi Neel you say, India has nothing to offer to US. ha ha ha. we shall see. Delhi ab door nahin.

Ranjan said...

Hi Ambi..your analyais could have been valid, had we not talk about indias foreign policy. I tend to agree with Kunji as what we are talking here is about forign policy and not about credentials of Dr. Man Mohan Singh as an Economist. India's forign policy has never been independent.

1.During 1950's we were quite confused about the term "foriegn policy".

2. Then in later 50's and 60's we dreamt for a non-allignment foriegn policy.

3. Then in between we were reluctant follower of soviet union.

4. Then in 70's and early 80's we wanted to please both Soviet Union and US.

5. In 90's we suddenly wanted to please US. However a good thing happened in late 90's was the nuclear test. That deserve a pat.

6. From 2000 onwards we have been conciouslly following a very menial subservient attitude towards US.

7. Mr. Prime Minister ows an explanation to this country- to the youth of this country as to why his government do not want to provide a clear and firm stand on many issues- I am not going to list them though.It is important for this country not to get bogged down by the middle class syndrom. After all we continue to fail to link our ecomoic potential (not the ecomomic might) to the forign policy. We would need to learn from China. That is the sign of an emerging proud nation. That is where this government failed and continue to fail. There need a revamp of India's foriegn policy.