India's efforts to get access to Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley, who has pleaded guilty before a U.S. court to charges of plotting the 26/11 attacks, are likely to get a further push with Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam leaving here for Washington on Saturday for discussions with U.S. Justice Department officials.

Mr. Subramaniam's trip, likely to continue till Monday, comes within a fortnight of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the U.S. and days after Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer gave the assurance that the U.S. was working at the “highest level” to provide India access to Headley, an American citizen of Pakistani origin, who has been in custody since October last when he was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Plea bargain

Mr. Subramaniam is likely to explore all avenues open to India for getting access to Headley, who entered into a plea agreement with U.S. authorities, pleading guilty on all 12 counts. Under the May 18 plea bargain, Headley, under the Chapter “Cooperation,” has agreed that when directed by the U.S. Attorney's office, he will “fully and truthfully participate in any debriefings for the purpose of gathering intelligence or national security information.” He also agreed to “testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the U.S. by way of deposition, videoconferencing or letters rogatory.”

The Solicitor-General's discussions are also likely to examine the plea agreement in the light of the provision of the Extradition Treaty between India and the U.S. His discussions will also focus on understanding the provisions of the U.S. legal system, its implications vis-a vis India's demand and the mode of access to Headley.

Crucial evidence

While making out a case for granting access to Headley, the Home Ministry argued that Indian investigators had gathered crucial evidence of his many visits to India before and after the Mumbai terror attacks, which were mounted in 2008 from Pakistani soil.

Earlier this week, Mr. Roemer said Washington and New Delhi were working at the “highest level” to provide India access to Headley.

“Our government has put this as the highest priority in the counter-terror cooperation. We want to resolve it as quickly as we can,” said the Ambassador, who also met Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

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