No decision on direct access to Headley for India

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : The US has reiterated its stand of sharing full information on David Headley with India but says no decision has yet been made on whether New Delhi will have direct access to the Pakistani-American terror suspect.

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“We understand that there’s a lot of information that Headley has that is of great interest to India, particularly because he was scouting out some possible sites,” Assistant Secretary Of State For South And Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake told reporters Thursday.

“And so, obviously, the government of India has great interest in anything to do with that. And we have a great interest in sharing as much information as we can on that,” he said when asked about India’s demand for direct access to Headley who has confessed to his role in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

“So again, we are very much committed to full information sharing with the government on that,” Blake said. “However, no decision has yet been made on the question of whether they will have direct access to David Headley.”

“And you know, the US Department of Justice is working with the government of India to discuss the modalities for such cooperation. But again, no decision has been made on that,” he said.

Blake, who was briefing reporters on his recent trip to India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, said: “The United States also believes its important for Pakistan to not allow any terrorist groups to use Pakistan as a base from which to attack India or any other country.”

“And so I made that point not only publicly but privately with our friends in Pakistan.”

Blake also disagreed with a suggestion that “there’s a strong, growing anti-American feeling” in India over US failure to press Pakistan to cease cross-border terrorism in the context of the Headley case.

“On the contrary, we think that counter-terrorism is a growing and important area of cooperation for the United States,” he said referring to Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s ” very successful” visit to the US last autumn.

“So we feel that a lot of very good practical cooperation is taking. And the most recent example of that is the Headley case where, again, we’ve been in very close touch at high levels on the Headley, and I think our Indian friends would say the same,” he said.

Asked if he found any sense of progress in Pakistan regarding individuals who were indicted or charged for the Mumbai attacks, Blake said: “I think there has been progress over time. I can’t say that it’s been any very recent progress. But again, I think the government of Pakistan does remain committed to prosecuting these individuals.”

“And the only point I made was just the importance of just continuing that process, because that’s an important confidence-building measure for the Indians and for the United States, I might add, since there were six Americans killed in those attacks,” he said.

In response to another question about Pakistan’s failure to check terrorism directed against India, Blake said: “I think that Pakistan has made very important progress in the fight on terrorism…but that there’s still some things that need to be done.”