Sunday, 4 September 2011

'India was never serious about Headley extradition'

 Updated at: 1248 PST, Sunday, September 04, 2011
NEW DELHI: In December 2009, national security adviser M K Narayanan had told then US ambassador to India Timothy Roemer that New Delhi's demand for extraditing Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley was mere posturing to mislead the Indian public, and the government was not seeking his extradition "at this time".

A secret cable - which is part of the latest tranche of diplomatic correspondence released by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks - sent a day after Narayanan's telephonic conversation with Roemer on December 16, 2009 said the Indian government would be "in the hot seat if it were seen as relinquishing extradition" of the Lashkar-e-Taiba operative.

Narayanan said that it was "difficult not to be seen making the effort". He was responding to a demand by Roemer that India should refrain from requesting Headley's extradition.

Roemer explained that US hopes to secure crucial information from Headley, but the latter may clam up because of India's insistence that he be extradited to them. "He (Roemer) explained that the threat of extradition to India could cause Headley's cooperation to dry up, but that allowing the US judicial process to unfold or securing a plea agreement that both reflects his overall culpability and ensures his continued cooperation would maximize our ability to obtain further information from Headley," the cable said.

Headley had pleaded guilty to all charges in a Chicago court last year, and is now awaiting sentence.The extradition treaty's prohibition on an individual being extradited to face trial for the same conduct or offence might be an obstacle, the envoy had told Narayanan. "If Headley were convicted, an extradition request by India would not be considered until his sentence in the United States was fully served, which could be decades, if ever," he had said.

Roemer also complained about the leakage of information on the Headley case provided by the US authorities. "He stressed that the Indian government's discretion in protecting this sensitive information was of critical importance, calling attention to recent media speculation containing details of the FBI briefing sourced to unnamed Indian government officials, which could compromise our ability to obtain further cooperation and information from Headley," the cable added.

Narayanan had dismissed media reports as "preposterous".

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