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India seeks access to Headley from US

By Lalit K Jha
December 12, 2013 16:07 IST
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India has sought access to Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Headley, the Mumbai terror attack convict now lodged in a US prison, as it insisted on bringing to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 assault.

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, who concluded her four- day United States trip during which she met top American officials, strongly raised the issue of access to 52-year-old Headley by Indian intelligence agencies, the sources said.

Remaining non-committal, the US officials said that they are working on it. However, the US assured India that it would continue to push Pakistan to bring to justice those who were responsible for the 26/11 carnage that left 166 people, including six Americans, dead.

The US officials reiterated the views expressed by President Barack Obama when he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House in September.

Pakistani-American Headley and his accomplice Pakistani-Canadian Rana were sentenced to 35 years and 14 years respectively by a US court for their roles in the Mumbai attack and an abortive attack on a Danish newspaper.

Though India had got access to Headley once, Indian investigators believe that if they could further quiz Headley and others, many hidden information could come to light.

Foreign Secretary Singh, who met Secretary of State John Kerry and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns along with Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal, also discussed the situation in the region in particular Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"They are sensitive to our concerns. India-US Strategic partnership is doing very well," officials said at the conclusion of Singh's trip, during which the US sought Indian assistance in convincing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement.

Karzai is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on Thursday.

Noting that India has welcomed the proposed US-Afghan BSA, the official said it is for the Afghan President to decide and for it to come to an understanding with the US.

"We have always supported that and we will continue to do so," sources said, adding the US did seek India's help on BSA.

"We are looking at it and we would take a decision based on our capabilities," sources said when asked about the latest Afghan request to have military equipment's from India.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that Kerry and Burns discussed ways to deepen the US-India Strategic Partnership and consult on regional issues.

"The United States and India agree to joint principles to strengthen India-US cooperation on training United Nations peacekeepers, developed with support from the Department’s Global Peace Operations Initiative," Psaki said.

Singh also met Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken. They discussed "the full range of issues that underpin our strategic partnership," said Laura Lucas Magnuson, spokesperson of the National Security Council.

"The US also accepted India's invitation to serve as a partner country for India's technology summit and expo in New Delhi in the fall of 2014, further intensifying our broad scientific cooperation," Psaki said.

Acknowledging that Bangladesh did come up during the talks, sources said ultimately what happens in Dhaka is for that country to decide.

"Both (India and the US) wants elections to take place. Both of us want an election that has as many parties as possible. I think there is a common interest for everybody around to see, Bangladesh a stable and an end to the violence," sources said.

"Deputy Secretary Burns and Foreign Secretary Singh affirmed our support for continued dialogue between the major parties in Bangladesh that will lead to timely, free, fair, and credible elections," a state department spokesperson said.

On resumption of talks with Pakistan, the Indian delegation reiterated the position stated by Prime Minister Singh in his meeting with Obama that peace and tranquility has to be maintained along the Line of Control and there needs to be progress in the 26/11 attack case trial.

On the trade and investment side, the two delegations discussed the issues that were of concern to US as well as that of India.

"I think there has been let up in the negative coverage," sources said, attributing this to the efforts being made by India in the past few months.

While the US side raised the issue of intellectual property rights, compulsory licensing and foreign direct investment, India raised the issue of immigration reform, certain provisions of which are hurting Indian companies.

"I think there is a clear understanding that trade and investment forms a central pillar of our relationship," sources said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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