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India’s baffling conditional pardon and deal with David Coleman Headley

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Chicago: Considering that any intelligence that David Coleman Headley might supply India will necessarily be exponentially dated, it is hard to make sense of a special court in Mumbai granting a conditional pardon to the key Mumbai terror plotter and even making him a witness for the prosecution.

For Headley’s part though he has once again pulled off a crafty deal to save himself more trouble by agreeing to turn approver for India reportedly in return for disclosing the role played by his handlers from the Pakistani military and intelligence services. However, on the face of it one cannot say what specifically India stands to gain by granting him such extraordinary accommodation.

The only plausible explanation behind the Mumbai court’s decision is that the Indian prosecutors are trying to make the best of a bad situation where Headley is a tightly controlled subject by the US authorities access to whom is very limited. Given his history with the US authorities as an informant and rather complicated entanglement with the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba as well as elements of Pakistani intelligence were some reluctance on the US side to expose him to Indian investigators.

While his plea deal with the US prosecutors requires him to cooperate with India and other foreign agencies to the fullest possible extent, it is a matter of speculation how much he is really permitted to reveal. Anything that he might have to say about his relationship with Pakistani intelligence or any other official agency is now a good seven to nine years old. He was arrested in October, 2009 from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport just as he was about to leave the country. Effectively, he was out of any direct touch with any of his Pakistani contacts since his arrest.

He is known to have shared all the intelligence and information that he possessed about the November 26, 2008 Mumbai attacks with the US investigators. He was also extensively interrogated by Indian investigators in June, 2010 during which the US Department of Justice had maintained that “There were no restrictions on the questions posed by Indian investigators”. That being the case, coupled with the datedness of his information, the Indian conditional pardon is intriguing.

His 2010 plea deal was incumbent upon the quality of information that he would provide to the US authorities. At the time the prosecutors here had said that Headley “has provided substantial assistance to the criminal investigation, and also has provided information of significant intelligence value”.

Subsequently, even at the time of his sentencing in January, 2013, both the prosecution and defense repeatedly and greatly emphasized the extent and quality of his cooperation. His attorney John Theis, in requesting for a lighter sentence, had said the information that Headley provided was “so profound that it calls for extraordinary downward departure.”

He also said because of the information provided by Headley barely 30 minutes after his arrest, lives were saved not just in India and the United States but elsewhere in the world.

For its part even the defense described Headley’s case as “uniquely aggravating” and “uniquely mitigating” and frequently pointed out his unprecedented cooperation. It was perhaps for the first time in a major case of global terrorism that one of the key players chose to cooperate without any coercion and so immediately after his arrest.

Against this backdrop, Headley, who is already serving a 35-year-long sentence, has nothing to lose by turning approver on India’s behalf because the quality of what he has to offer is already fairly diminished because of his past cooperation. Unless there has been some behind-the-scenes deal-making between the Indian and American investigators over some still crucial bits of information that Headley will reveal, there does not seem to be anything significant to be gained by extending him such remarkable accommodation yet again.

One instance of Headley’s usefulness was illustrated with him pointing the authorities to the whereabouts of Ilyas Kashmiri, the Al Qaeda/Harkat ul Jihad al Islami leader, who was killed June 3, 2011, during a drone strike on an orchard in South Waziristan. Then regarded as one of the fiercest commanders, Kashmiri was one of the seven people to have been charged them with involvement in both the Mumbai case as well as the abortive attack on the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten which published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed offensive to Muslims in September, 2005.

Headley had even proposed to the investigators that they should send him back to Pakistan with an ornate sword embedded with a locator chip which he could gift Kashmiri. The US then could use the signal from the chip to locate and target him.

The government’s position paper on his sentencing, while referring to his extraordinary cooperation, said, “Headley similarly provided extensive detail about Ilyas Kashmiri and his network.” When asked to elaborate on the kind of information that Headley provided about Kashmiri, the prosecutors had said it was classified and they could not share it.

It had baffled many then why a man once so deeply immersed in an extreme version of Islam known as Salafism could change so radically as to seriously undermine its other adherents by exposing them. One plausible explanation could be what even Judge Harry Leinenweber zeroed in on. He had pointed out how Headley had a history of being arrested and then finding his way out of it by cooperating with the authorities. He was referring to Headley’s two arrests in the past in connection with narcotics smuggling and how he managed to come out of prison on fairly positive terms in exchange for cooperation.

His plea deal to escape the death penalty and extradition to India was yet another deal that he struck. Now with the Indian deal, Headley has yet again excelled at finding a way out of a potentially terrible situation.

(By Mayank Chhaya, IANS)

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India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Doklam or Donglang, is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India

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picture from- indiaopines.com

By Ruchika Verma

  • India and China have an old history of disputes
  • This time, the dispute is regarding the Dokplam Plateau
  • The area is of strategic importance for both the nations

Disputes between India and China are not at all uncommon. The rivalry between the two nations is famous. There have been several disputes between the two on the India-China border in past, and there seems to be no stopping for these disputes in the present or future, for that matter.

India and China have a n old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com
India and China have an old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com

In June 2017, the world witnessed yet another dispute arising between India and China. This time the dispute was about China building a road extending to Doklam Plateau, which both nations have been fighting over for years now.

Also Read: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

History of the dispute 

Doklam or Donglang (in Chinese), is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India. India doesn’t directly claim the area but supports Bhutan’s claims on it.

India fits into the picture, as this plateau is an important area for India. Not only is Bhutan one of the biggest allies of India; China gaining access over the Doklam Plateau will also endanger India’s borders, making them vulnerable to attacks.

Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan's borders.
Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan’s borders.

Apart from the hostile history of the two nations, the Doklam Plateau is also important for India to maintain its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States. China building a road through Doklam surely threatens that control.

A complete timeline of what happened in the recent Doklam Standoff 

On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and excavators began extending an existing road southward on the Doklam plateau, near India’s border. It was Bhutan which raised the alarm for India.

On 18 June 2017, India responded by sending around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers to evict the Chinese troops from Doklam.

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested against the construction of a road in the disputed territory.  According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road in an area which is shared both Bhutan and India, along with China.

Between 30 June 2017 and 5 July 2017, China released multiple statements justifying their claim over the Doklam plateau. They cited reasons as to why the Doklam standoff wasn’t really needed. And how China has not intruded into India’s territory to incite the standoff.

On 19th July 2017, China asked India again to withdraw its troops from the Doklam. On 24th July 2017,  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his statement, asked India to withdraw and behave themselves to maintain peace.

India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC
India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC

Also Read: Why India Must Counter China’s High-Altitude Land Grab?

What followed till 16th August 2017 was China constantly alleging India of trying to create trouble. They accused India of trying to disturb the peace and not withdrawing the troops, even after repeated reminders. They also accused India of bullying.

India, however, kept quiet during the whole fiasco, only releasing a statement regarding their stand and position at the Doklam standoff.

On 28 August 2017, India and China finally announced that they had agreed to pull their troops back from the Doklam standoff. The withdrawal was completed on that very day.

On 7 September 2017, many media reports claimed that both nation’s troops have not left the site completely. They were still patrolling the area, simply having moved 150 meters away from their previous position.

On 9 October 2017, China announced that it is ready to maintain peace with India at the frontiers. India reacted in affirmative, the peace was established when Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s visited Nathu La.

The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay
The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay

The Doklam issue, for now, is resolved. However, given the history of disputes between India and China, it won’t be a surprise if the issue resurfaces again in near future.