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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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All You Need To Know About India’s Strategic Chabahar Port

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border.

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Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma

  • The Chabahar Port is of great strategic importance for India
  • It is in Iran and is being built and operated by India
  • This port will increase India’s trade with Central Asia and Europe

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border. Chabahar is the trans-shipment and logistics hub for the Makran Coast and Baluchistan province of Iran.

Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons

The tension between India and Pakistan is nothing new. There are several instances where both the countries have tried to obstruct each other’s political or economic agendas. This obstruction, along with other strategic reasons, resulted in the India and Iran’s deal on the Chabahar Port, which is crucial because of several reasons.

Here are few things about it you may not have known before :

  • Under the Trilateral Transit and Transport Agreement of 2016, the Chabahar port is the gateway to the Transport Corridor between India, Iran and Afghanistan, which allows multi-modal goods’ and passengers’ transport.

Also Read: India and Iran sign agreement to develop Chabahar Port

  • The agreement also states that India will develop and operate two berths in the first phase of the port. The contract is for 10 years and extendable. This time period excludes the first two years as they will be used for construction.
Chabahar Port will make India's trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port will make India’s trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port’s first phase, which was developed by India, and inaugurated by Iran on 4th December 2017, is of great strategic importance as it makes it easier for India to conduct trade with Central Asia and Europe.
  • Iran’s Chabahar port is also important for India’s trade because of Pakistan’s reluctance in allowing India to send goods to Iran and Afghanistan through its land territory.

Also Read: Gwadar Port: China Turning Pakistan Port Into Regional Giant 

  • The development of Chabahar Port will increase the momentum of the International North-South Transport Corridor whose signatories include India, Afghanistan and Russia. Iran is the key gateway in this project. It will improve India’s trade with Central Asia as well as Europe.
    The Chabahar Port has also reduced Afghanistan’s dependence on the transit road, which went through Karachi. Now, trade can be conducted via Chabahar Port too. Islamabad has accused India of trying to use this development as a means to destabilise Pakistan.

    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port also acts as a counter to the barely 100 km away, Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is developed by China. However, Iran has defended that Chabahar is not a rival to Gwadar and Pakistan is invited to join in its development.
  • In October 2017, India sent its first shipment of wheat to through Chabahar to Afghanistan, in order to test the viability of the route.
  • India will also construct a 900-km Chabahar-Zahedan-hajigak railway line that will connect Port of Chabahar to Hajigak in Afghanistan. It will also connect Mashad in the north, providing access to Turkmenistan as well as northern Afghanistan.This project is worth $1.6 billion.

    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehrain. Wikimedia Commons
    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehran. Wikimedia Commons
  • It is being said that India will supply $400 million of steel rails to Tehran. There are also possibilities of setting up a fertilizer plant through a joint venture with the Iranian government.