Access to Headley to figure in foreign secretary’s US talks

New Delhi, Dec 7: India’s request for access to LeT operative and 26/11 planner David Headley is expected to get more traction when Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh visits the US from Sunday.

According to sources, the US authorities have exhibited more understanding of India’s position on wanting to interrogate Headley, who has been jailed in the US for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and plot to attack a newspaper in Denmark.

For Singh, who is travelling to the US as part of foreign office consultations, it will be the first full-fledged visit since taking over in August.

The visit would also be in the nature of a familiarization trip, a kind of stock taking since the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in September and to define the agenda of bilateral ties ahead, the sources said.

India’s concerns about electronics snooping is also to figure in the talks, besides the H1B visa and economic issues are also to be discussed.

The foreign secretary’s visit is also aimed to “chip away at the image that there is goodwill between India and the US and pleasantry, but the ties are at a plateau”, the source said, adding that a two-day India-US police chief’s conference was a key event in their bilateral ties.

While India and the US have a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and India has put in a demand for access to Headley “India needs to be clear about what it asks for” and whether the US legal system permits it, keeping in mind the plea bargain Headley has entered into with the US government.

US Attorney General Eric Holder during talks with Indian officials has “understood the legal point” of the case and had been “extremely forthcoming” as he had seen what terrorism has wrought, another source said. Holder had assured that the US “would try to facilitate” access to Headley, the source said.

“Our demand is on the table,” the source added.