A day after his controversial comments on information shared by the U.S. on David Headley, who played a key role in the run-up to the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries was now far more broad-based.
“Intelligence sharing has definitely improved in recent months with the signing of the counter-terrorism security initiative. The cooperation between India and the U.S. is now far more broad-based,” he told journalists here on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Mr. Pillai said that Indian agencies were “disappointed” at not being provided specific information by the U.S. on Headley either before or after 26/11, else he could have been nabbed when he visited India in March 2009 — four months after the Mumbai attacks, which he had plotted as a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative.
But the U.S. said it had only “more general and less specific” information on Headley before 26/11.
“If we had information that could have helped to prevent the attacks and pinpoint specific aspects of the attack, we would have certainly shared that too,” Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told journalists in Washington on Thursday.
“The fact of the matter is that the information that we had before 26/11 was not of that nature. It was just far more general and less specific. However, after we picked up Headley, we did know a lot about 26/11.”
At a special White House briefing of Indian journalists on President Barack Obama's maiden India trip, Mr. Rhodes said the U.S. had launched a review of its agencies' handling of the inputs provided by Headley's two wives about his involvement in the 26/11 strikes.
“The Director of National Intelligence Admiral [Retired] James Clapper has ordered a full review of everything that we knew related to the Headley case,” Mr. Rhodes said.
“Some of this is a vast amount of information within the U.S. intelligence system, and the information that we received in this instance from Headley's ex-wives, which was of a more general nature.
“But we want to find exactly, given the importance of this case...whenever we have that information, whenever the review is completed, we will certainly share that with the Indians as well in the spirit of the co-operation and partnership that we have,” Mr. Rhodes said in response to a question.
With regard to the inputs that had come to light recently, the clear understanding of the Obama administration was that it shared the information it had before 26/11, he said.
“Not only did we share that information, a signal of strength of our counter-terrorism co-operation, but actually provided access to Headley for the Indian security services so that they were able to ask him questions directly, which continue to flesh out an understanding of what took place on 26/11.”
Obama's India visit
Pointing out New Delhi was looking forward to Mr. Obama's visit from November 6 to 9, Mr. Pillai said there was no specific terror threat during his trip, but militants might try to create disturbances to get publicity.
The Home Secretary said there had been a few incidents of firing along the international border as well as the Line of Control (with Pakistan) but the security forces handled them properly.
“We have seen a couple of cross-border firing incidents by the Pakistani Rangers and Army,” he said.
According to him, India now had greater cooperation in intelligence-sharing with other nations. However, he stressed the need to strengthen the country's own intelligence gathering mechanism.
“We had it during the Commonwealth Games, when agencies of various countries, including Interpol, proved to be useful. But our analysis is that the national interests should be served by our own intelligence agencies.
“There is cooperation, which is useful, because I think we are not able to cover everything. Therefore, the more the number of ears and eyes you have, the better it is. Because in case you miss something, somebody else may pick it up. And that is why we have this international cooperation.”