India can interrogate David Headley, says US

The US today said it will allow Indian investigators to interrogate David Headley, who has pleaded guilty to his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks, but made it clear that he cannot be extradited to India.

Asked if Indian investigators would be provided access to interrogate Headley, US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said "Yes".

Blake ruled out Headley’s extradition to India but left the options open on such a move in case more charges came up against him in the future.

"With respect to the Headley case, the plea bargain agreement was announced and part of that agreement was that the US would not extradite Headley either to India or Pakistan or Denmark for the charges for which he has now admitted guilt," Blake told reporters after attending a CII organized event here.

"But that does not mean that at some future date, some additional charges could not be brought. I do not want to speculate much on the future charges, but at least on these charges he cannot be extradited," he said.

49-year-old Pakistani-American Headley had pleaded guilty before a US court to all the 12 charges against him of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons and providing material support to Pakistan-based LeT, besides aiding and abetting the murder of six US citizens in the 26/11 attacks that killed 166 people.

Blake responded to questions from reporters on Headley and the US approach to Pakistan in dealing with terror outfits operating from that country.

"We think it is very important for Pakistan to tick off the LeT threat. Not just because of the security and stability of the US, but also India and other countries,"

"So this is something, I will be discussing on my trip to Pakistan," Blake, who will be travelling to Islamabad and Afghanistan from here, said.

Asked if US would bring pressure on Pakistan to act against the terror groups operating from its soil, Blake noted that Pakistan had always said it would not allow terrorists to operate from its soil and the US and its friends expected Islamabad to abide by that "very important" commitment.

The US official said the "greatest concern" now for the US and India were Lashkar-e-Taiba operations and its "increasing global scope and ambition".

To a query on the perception in India that Washington was not cooperating with New Delhi on the Mumbai terror investigations, the US official refused to agree with the view and pointed out to the Headley case.

He said the "cooperation is exceptional" between the two countries on the Mumbai attacks and it would continue to make progress.

"Your home minister P Chidambaram had a very successful visit to the US last fall and as a result of that visit we are proceeding in a number of directions to expand our consultations on specific cooperation," he said, noting that law enforcement agencies of the two countries have had a "wide web of exchanges" in recent times.

"We are very satisfied on the significant progress that has been made. I cannot speak for the Indians, but I am sure they are as well," he said.

On the concerns over US arms supply to Pakistan being directed against India, he said America was "aware" of the Indian concerns and there has been a "good" dialogue in this regard between the two countries.

"We assure our Indian friends that the arms sales to Pakistan….the character and nature of our military relationship is changing now in Pakistan.

"We are increasingly focused on counter insurgency capabilities of the Pakistan military so it can deal with the very important challenges on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and effectively prosecute the war against al-Qaida and against various Taliban elements that are located in Pakistan. There is good progress on that. So that is the sort of long term trend that is taking place.

Another long term trend that is important to talk about, Blake said "is that increasingly we are placing a much greater emphasis on civilian sector assistance and less on the military component, in a way of enhancing Pakistan’s democracy, economic and energy development and helping the Pakistan government to be able to deliver services, to get at some of the conditions that give rise to terrorism in the first place". (PTI)

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