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'Headley's extradition is a legal process, not political'

By Vicky Nanjappa
December 22, 2009 12:32 IST
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There seems to be a tussle between India and the United States of America over Pakistan- born American national terror suspect David Headley's extradition. While Indian agencies indicate Headley was a double agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, the American agency denies any such news.

C D Sahay, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, feels that extradition is a legal process, not a political one. In this interview with Vicky Nanjappa, Sahay says that there could be certain legal issues involved and the best way to go about it is to get relevant inputs through backchannel arrangements.

India is finding hard to extradite David Headley from the US. Does that mean that all is not well between the two countries?

Extradition is a legal process, not political. Each country has a clearly defined procedure for initiating an extradition process. I do not think that process has commenced as yet. And I do not consider this is indicative of the state of relationship between the two countries

It is said that Headley was a Central Intelligence Agency agent who turned rogue. Do you think that is why the US denied India from questioning Headley?

There is no official statement yet on Headley's CIA credentials. In fact, the CIA has denied this proposition. If he indeed was, it could be one of the considerations. Even on the question of granting access to Headley, certain legal issues could be involved. Normally in such situations, it would be more convenient to get relevant inputs through back channel arrangements.

According to the FBI, Headley moved around in India freely and visited various places including those targeted during the Mumbai attack. Do you consider this to be an intelligence failure on India's part? Was there a lack of coordination with the US agencies?

I would not go to the extent of calling it "intelligence failure'. Perhaps, this calls for immediate upgradation of our immigration monitoring system to ensure that such activities to get 'flagged' for on ground enquiry.

Ilyas Kashmiri, an al-Qaeda operative, says that India's meddling in Afghanistan would lead to a series of attacks on Indian soil. What should be India's approach towards Afghanistan?

In my view, al-Qeada's operations or objectives in India are not driven by our Afghan policy since we are not doing anything beyond what is permissible under the norms of diplomatic activities and defined by the terms of bi-lateral cooperation.

Is the US serious about defeating ISI-sponsored terrorism on Indian soil?

The ISI-sponsored terrorism in India, I firmly believe, should be our concern. We should deal with this on our own and not expect others to do it for us. Indeed any cooperation in these efforts would be welcome.

How different is the world after the Mumbai attack? Do you think intelligence-sharing and co-ordination between India and the other countries in terms of intelligence sharing has improved? If not, what should India do?

I can't comment on the current status and intensity of intelligence-sharing on terror-related issues.

Post 26/11, there was talk of going to war with Pakistan. Do you India should have carried out surgical strikes?

This matter is raised every time a major terrorist incident takes place. Even after the attack on our Parliament, the issue was debated in the media and elsewhere. I believe that war or surgical strike will not solve the problem; it may only get aggravated.

Do you think that al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Tayiba have come together and will be successful in launching global jihad as they have been proclaiming?

Their agenda and resolve are well stated. How far they would succeed will depend on how well prepared we are in meeting the challenges.

How serious is the threat from internal groups in India like the Indian Mujahideen when compared to terror groups across the border?

It is serious, but quite often they tend to complement the designs of the terror groups from across the border.

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Vicky Nanjappa