India denied opportunity to prosecute Pakistan-born man involved in Mumbai massacre. During Eelam War IV, New Delhi denied Lanka access to Tigers in their custody
In the wake of UN Chief Ban Ki-moon s move to investigate Sri Lanka for war crimes, a simmering dispute between India and the US over the latter s decision not to hand over a US citizen wanted in connection with the bloody Mumbai attack in November 2008, has revealed the double standards in the global fight against terrorism.
Sri Lankan government spokesman Minister G. L. Peiris recently said that the UN was using one yardstick for the powerful and another for the weak. But the controversial US decision has proved that even powerful India, though being a key regional US partner will not receive the required support to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.
Sri Lankan officials told The Island that countries should review existing anti-terrorism measures as well as bilateral agreements to ensure a level playing field for all governments battling terrorism.
Sources said India, too, during Eelam war IV, had turned a blind eye to Sri Lanka s repeated requests
for access to LTTE operatives held in India. Although India supported Sri Lanka s war against the LTTE, domestic political compulsions prevented Sri Lanka receiving access to LTTE terrorists and their Indian agents. Sources said that the Maldives giving Sri Lanka access to LTTE terrorists in their custody (May 2007) and a South East Asian country handing over top LTTE financier KP to Colombo, last year, were examples of anti-terrorism cooperation.
In keeping with a deal reached with US Federal prosecutors, David Coleman Headley, a Pakistan-born US national will not be extradited to India to face charges. The unexpected move came amidst the long overdue opportunity for Indian investigators to interrogate the suspect.
According to wire services, India is likely to challenge a U.S. plea bargain agreement barring the extradition of Headley, who admitted playing a key role in planning the terror assault in Mumbai. They suggested that India was concerned that the Obama administration s warming ties with neighboring Pakistan would leave India s primary concern Islamabad s suspected involvement in the attack - unaddressed.
Sources said that India was likely to take up the position that the Headley-US deal should not be at the expense of India and New Delhi expected the Barak Omaba administration to honour extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties between the two countries.
Headley was arrested by the FBI at Chicago s O Hare Airport last October.
The suspect last week pleaded guilty in a Chicago Federal Court to 12 charges, nine of them relating to the Mumbai massacre. Ten heavily-armed Pakistani gunmen attacked targets, including luxury hotels, a railway station and a Jewish center over a 60-hour period, killing 166 people. One gunman was captured and the other nine killed. Among the dead were six Americans. Pointing out that India had given the FBI access to the captured gunman, the US, sources said, was not treating India as an equal partner in the global fight against terrorism.
Headley, a 49 year-old from Chicago who changed his name from Daood Gilani to facilitate his terrorist activities on behalf of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), admitted to undergoing five LeT training courses in 2002-3, making five trips to Mumbai to reconnoiter targets in the run-up to the attack, and meeting with co-conspirators in Pakistan. He also pleaded guilty to plotting attacks against the Danish newspaper whose publication of cartoons satirizing Prophet Mohammed caused an uproar in the Islamic world.
Former US Ambassador in Colombo, now U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Blake, last week revealed during a visit to New Delhi that the plea bargain included an agreement not to extradite Headley to India (or Pakistan or Denmark) `on the charges for which he has now admitted guilt.`
According to the Economic Times, India s solicitor-general, Gopal Subramaniam, has now advised the government that India is entitled to seek access to Headley and to have him extradited. It said that according to government officials, `the plea agreement does not override the U.S. obligation under the international law to help India in investigation and trial of a crime committed on its soil.`
The Congress Party-led government in New Delhi is under fire from its biggest rival, the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over the Headley affair.
`This is a failure of Indian diplomacy,` BJP spokeswoman Nirmala Sitharaman said in a statement Wednesday, accusing the government of not sufficiently asserting its sovereign rights on the matter.
Had India been able to interrogate Headley, she said, it would have been able to establish the involvement of the Pakistani state and Pakistani `non-state actors` in the terror plot.
Sitharaman was also critical of the U.S. and what she called the Obama administration s `help-the-ally-at-any-cost` approach to Pakistan.
Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who had been India s High Commissioner in Colombo a few years ago, recently emphasized the importance of expeditious action on the part of Pakistan, following the arrest of Headley and Tahawuur Hussain Rana. During recent talks with her Pakistani counterpart, she had said that the attack in Mumbai was part of a larger problem-that of the continued existence and unhindered activities of organizations directed against India from Pakistan.
Pakistan has so far denied India access to suspects on trial in Pakistan for their alleged involvement in the Mumbai massacre.
Although India has strongly campaigned for US support to neutralize the terrorist allegedly from Pakistan-based groups, the Obama administration has so far, turned a blind eye to New Delhi s plea.