Even as Jamat-ud-Dawa chief and alleged Mumbai terror attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed has continued to address political rallies with an anti-India tenor, the Government of India is quietly pursuing back-channel means to bring suspects in the November 2008 attacks to book via discussions with law enforcement authorities in the United States.
The Indian embassy in Washington said in a statement that Ambassador Nirupama Rao held a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on February 21 at the U.S. Department of Justice, and a key issue discussed was cooperation between the two nations on investigation into the Mumbai attacks.
Underscoring the crucial importance of such cooperation, Ms. Rao expressed hope that a few important aspects of India’s request for assistance in this regard would be fulfilled soon, the embassy said, adding that “This assumes importance in view of the need of bringing the main culprits to book without delay.”
Mr. Holder, the statement noted, had assured that all possible assistance “within the framework of U.S. law” would be provided in this regard and more generally he underscored the importance that the U.S. attached to counterterrorism cooperation with India.
The allusion to U.S. assistance necessarily remaining within the confines of U.S. law gains salience in the context of the interrogation of David Coleman Headley, the Pakistani-American accused of planning and conducting reconnaissance for the terror attacks, and providing material support to the group behind the attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba.
While India has in the past pressed the U.S. for further access to Headley for questioning, the U.S. has courted controversy by delaying such access and limiting it in certain regards, including on the Indian government’s request to have Headley extradited to India. During last year’s hearings in the case, Headley’s testimony in a Chicago court revealed further linkages between LeT and certain elements connected to the Pakistani intelligence services.