M A I N   N E W S

On Headley Trail
After yes, US now reluctant to give India access
Ashok Tuteja & Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
In a major embarrassment for India, the US, this morning said no decision had been taken to give India direct access in questioning terror-suspect David Coleman Headley who has confessed his role in the 26/11attacks.

Indian officials, stung by the “protective” attitude of the US towards Headley and a general shift in stated stance, managed to put up a brave face and downplayed the developments saying that “for us nothing has changed… our position is the same.”

The statement was made today by American Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer said. He almost rebutted the comments made by US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake on a visit to India.

While Blake had indicated that Indian investigators would have access to Headley but ruled out extradition, Roemer said: “No decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made…. the US Department of Justice would work with the Centre regarding the modalities of such cooperation”.

As the Assistant Secretary indicated, the US is committed to full information sharing in our counter-terror partnership and in fact, we have provided substantial information to India in this case and we will continue to do so, Roemer clarified. US Attorney General Eric Holder, the head of the Department of Justice, had telephoned Chidambaram on Saturday and drawn his attention to the “cooperation” Headley was bound to provide under a plea-bargain with the US.

The US statement today is being seen as a stinging answer to Indian claims that India would get access to Headley. In diplomatic circles it is seen as reflective of Washington’s ambivalence on permitting India to investigate Headley. It is also seen as a step backwards in the Indo-US cooperation. This attitude was reminiscent of the 1980’s scenario when the US papered over any terrorism against India originating from Pakistan, an official said.

“Given the change in the US position, Washington might not like to expose Headley to Indian investigators as his confessions could cause embarrassment. Such agents are always under watch and the US agencies would have known each time he visited India and even his motives,” a senior functionary said. 



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