No decision has been made on the question of whether India will have direct access to David Coleman Headley, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, said today.
Discussing some of the highlights of his recent trip to the region with journalists Mr. Blake said, “We understand that there is a lot of information that Mr. Headley has, which is of great interest to India, particularly because he was scouting out some possible sites.” In turn the United States had great interest in sharing as much information as it could on that, Mr. Blake added.
Yet he cautioned that although the U.S. Department of Justice was working with the Government of India to discuss the modalities for cooperation on the Headley case, “no decision has been made on that.”
Broader LeT threat
On the other hand in Pakistan Mr. Blake said that among the most important messages that he had conveyed was his view that India was seeking two things: first the “continued prosecution of suspects in custody for the Mumbai bombings”; and second, “progress to curtail cross-border infiltration that is taking place from Pakistan into India.”
Mr. Blake also said that he had urged Pakistan to take action against the Punjab-based groups, such as Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT), “not only because that is important to India but it is important to the U.S.”
He explained that the LeT now had growing ambition and scope in its activity as shown by the David Headley case. “So we think it is very much in the interest of Pakistan as well to take action against the LeT,” he added, implying that the global nature of the LeT threat may endanger Pakistan’s interests.
The Assistant Secretary further argued that the it was important for Pakistan not to allow any terrorist groups to use Pakistan as a base from which to attack India or any other country. “I made that point not only publicly but also privately with my friends in Pakistan,” he said.
Mr. Blake praised Pakistan for its military action along the Afghan border. “I think an enormous amount has happened in Pakistan, first in Swat, then in South Waziristan, and then the more recent arrests of several senior Taliban leaders.” A lot of important progress has been made, he added, however qualifying that with the statement that there has not been any recent progress with the trials of the Mumbai attacks accused in Pakistan.
Liability and the civil nuclear deal
Reacting to suggestions that India may not pass legislation for absolute liability in line with Committee on Supplementary Compensation Mr. Blake said, “I do not see it as a sticking point. In all of our conversations with the Government of India, they have consistently said they remain committed to fulfilling this commitment under the civilian nuclear deal, to pass the civil liability legislation.”
He admitted that the opposition in India has recently expressed its objections to aspects of that legislation but said that it would be up to the Government of India to figure out how to move forward on this.
India-Iran pipeline project
Regarding the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India oil pipeline proposal Mr. Blake sought to dissuade India and Pakistan from engaging with Iran in this area. “This is a very sensitive time with negotiations with Iran and we would prefer that all countries not conduct such transactions with Iran at this time,” he said.
He said that the reason for this would be that the U.S. view of Iran was that it appeared to be unwilling to uphold its international responsibilities in terms of its alleged nuclear development programme.