Amid preparations for US President Barack Obama’s visit, India and the US on Wednesday continued to spar over the issue of sharing specific intelligence relating to the designs of David Coleman Headley, Washington insisting it has been sharing with New Delhi intelligence on “a daily basis” before and after the 26/11 attacks.
Home Secretary GK Pillai said India was disappointed that the US did not share information on Headley, the Pakistani-American terror suspect who is now in US custody, for conspiracy in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
“They did not share Headley’s name. Had they done so, at least after the horrific Mumbai attacks, Headley could have been nabbed as he travelled to India in 2009 March,” Pillai said.
Asked about media reports that the US did not act even after one of Headley’s wives tipped off anti-terror officials about his militant links, Pillai said: “You could say we were disappointed that the name of David Headley was not shared, if not pre-26/11 at least post-26/11, so that at least when he came subsequently to India at that time we could have nabbed him here.”
Reacting to Pillai’s comments, US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer underlined that the US shared intelligence on a daily basis with India that saved lives of many people.
“The US shared intelligence on a regular and consistent basis with the government of India prior to the Mumbai attacks. We have also shared information with the government of India after the Mumbai attacks,” the envoy told reporters here when he was asked about Pillai’s remarks.
“Now, it’s historic and unprecedented in nature. It is saving lives on a daily basis,” he stressed.
Alluding to his experience as a 9/11 Commission member, Roemer said even the American Commission was not given access to Khalid Seikh Mohammed, a key accused and mastermind of terror attacks that killed over 3,000 people.
“When India asked America for access to Headley, we gave it because India is our strategic partner and our friend and somebody with whom we share intelligence on regular and consistent basis,” he said.
“So, India could sit down with Headley and ask him what happened prior to Mumbai. We are not afraid what he will say. In fact, we provided that opportunity to India to ask anything they want,” he said.
According to some media reports, Headley’s two wives had told FBI over a year before the Mumbai attacks about his association with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), suspected mastermind of the Mumbai carnage.
The reports suggested that the US did not pass on these specific inputs to India, which could have helped New Delhi in averting the 26/11 terror mayhem.
Ever since these disclosures, India has maintained that the US did not provide specific information and only gave “general information” prior to 26/11.
“Before 26/11, we did not have anything more than very general, non-specific information on these warnings and threats,” Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said recently.
US officials have sought to downplay the controversy and have stressed that expanding counter-terror cooperation will be among important issues that will be on the table when Obama holds talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.