Headley case: India gets tough on visas for Pakistani origin people


Washington/New Delhi : In the aftermath of the arrest of two Pakistan-born Chicago men in a foiled plot to launch a major terror attack in India, the Indian government has tightened its procedure for granting visas to Pakistani-origin people in third countries.

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Last month, American national David Coleman Headley and his alleged accomplice Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin, were arrested in Chicago on charges of plotting an attack on India at the behest of the Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Official sources in New Delhi said this practice of obtaining security clearance from New Delhi had been on for a while, but had become a must in the aftermath of reports of terrorists with links to Pakistan-based outfits planning terror strikes in India.

“The procedure has been on for some years. There are security concerns. Foreign nationals of certain countries will require clearance from New Delhi for their visas,” said a source.

The union home ministry has also suggested that “security was paramount” when giving visas to foreign nationals of Pakistani origin and lessons needed to be learnt following Headley’s travels in India.

According to the FBI, the two suspects, who were schoolmates in Pakistan, were in touch with senior LeT operatives and other top terrorists in Pakistan, including Ilyas Kashmiri, a terrorist with links to Al Qaeda and the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HuJI).

Sources in Washington also sought to underplay the denial of access to officials of Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency, and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to Headley who is under arrest in Chicago.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was keen to involve the Indian team in the questioning, but apparently objections from the lawyer of the accused questioning a foreign agency’s involvement in the interrogation came in the way, they said.

The five-member Indian team was keen to question Headley to find out if he was in touch with the masterminds of the LeT and if he attended any of the training camps the 10 Pakistan-based terrorists went through for the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes.

Information provided by the FBI revealed that Headley operated a visa agency in Mumbai for almost two years until July 2008 and had travelled to India on business visas nine times between 2006 and 2009.

During the 26/11 investigations, India gave the FBI access to the lone survivor of the terror attackers, Ajmal Amir Kasab, and allowed the Americans to meet him on several occasions.

Earlier, in July 2002, India was denied access to quiz Afghanistan foreign minister under the Taliban regime, Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil over the hijack of the Indian Airlines plane to Afghanistan. Wakil acted as an interlocutor at Kandahar after the hijacked IC-814 flight landed there and played a key role in the negotiations.

India had wanted Wakil to shed more details into the intricacies of the hijack, contacts that hijackers had with the outside world, including instructions and logistical support they received from Pakistan.