India's counter-terror cooperation with the US may have reached a critical point, with the government here concluding that the latter's plea agreement with 26/11 accused David Coleman Headley is violative of Washington's obligations to New Delhi under international law, reports Times of India.
In what could potentially lead India to up its ante vis-a-vis the US over Headley, senior government functionaries have concluded after consultations with solicitor-general Gopal Subramaniam that Headley's plea agreement, under which he will be spared death sentence and extradition to India, conflicts with the extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties between the two countries.
Under the plea agreement, Headley aka Daood Gilani pleaded guilty on 12 counts — nine of them related to the terror attack on Mumbai — in exchange for a promise that he would not be given death sentence or extradited to India.
Indian authorities have so far been trying to get direct access to Headley, an outcome they remain — as home secretary G K Pillai indicated on Wednesday —confident of despite US ambassador Timothy Roemer saying American authorities were yet to take a call on it.
The assessment was bolstered by the opinion of the solicitor-general as well as the remarks of Headley's counsel in the US, promising cooperation with India.
Meanwhile, law minister Veerappa Moily said in Bangalore that access to the Pakistan-born jihadi was a question of when rather than whether. “One day or the other, the US will have to agree and expedite the issue that Headley will have to undergo interrogation by our agencies,” Moily said.
But the solicitor-general's legal advice seems to have altered the scenario radically.
Solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam has concluded that Headley's plea agreement conflicts with the extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties between India and US.
The solicitor general, who had a marathon session with U K Bansal, special secretary, internal security in the home ministry, and Sharad Chandra Sinha, head of NIA, based his opinion on Headley's plea agreement with the US department of justice, provisions of bilateral treaties with the US as well as international law, and the thick and still-growing dossier of Indian agencies on Headley.
But it is sheer numbers that India's case derives its real strength from. As against six American lives that were lost in 26/11, Indian toll from the barbaric terrorist attack stands at 153. In his opinion, Subramaniam stressed that India's “sovereign” rights entitle it to try Headley first, considering that his role in 26/11 was not that of a mere accessory.