Sunday, May 30, 2010




A day before the start of the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue at Washington DC and three days before President Barack Obama’s appearance at a reception to be hosted for the Indian delegation by Mrs.Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, one more charade in Indo-US cooperation will be enacted with the departure of a four-member team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of the Government of India for Chicago to interrogate David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) on his secret visits to India at the instance of the LET to collect operational information that would facilitate one more terrorist strike by the LET in India----this time directed mainly at Israeli and other Jewish targets.

2. On May 1,2010, Faisal Shahzad, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, tried unsuccessfully to cause an explosion in the Times Square of New York. He was identified and arrested on May 3 as he was trying to flee to Pakistan. Within a week, the US made the Pakistani authorities detain for questioning over 15 persons in Karachi, Islamabad and other places in this connection and US officials including Gen.James Jones, the US National Security Adviser, Mr.Leon Panetta, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) flew to Pakistan thereafter to insist on follow-up action by the Pakistani agencies and to warn the Pakistani leaders of the consequences of their non-cooperation.

3. One admired the seriousness and the sense of urgency shown by US officials for protecting American lives. If the protestations of President Barack Obama and his officials of friendship for India and their repeated assurances of the high priority attached by him to the US relations with India were sincere and honest, one would have expected from them a similar seriousness and sense of urgency in protecting Indian lives by facilitating immediate access to Headley for Indian investigators.

4. The immediate follow-up which they insisted upon from Pakistan to protect American lives, they did not concede to India to protect Indian lives. Headley was arrested by them in the beginning of October, 2009. It has taken them eight months to grant access to the Indian investigators. Even the access which they have now agreed to give after a delay of eight months is a limited one. During this delay of eight months, the LET would have been able to cover up its trail in India, withdraw from India those of its cadres whose identities were known to Headley and reorganize and relocate its sleeper cells.

5. The Indian investigators, it has been reported, will be allowed to question Headley in the presence of his lawyer and an official of the FBI. Do you call this interrogation? What is interrogation? It is not just questioning a person and typing out his replies. It is much more than that. It is a psychological process by which you make the suspect contradict himself by confronting him with evidence which you have been able to collect independently. Ultimately, he realizes the game is up and comes out with the truth.

6.With Headley’s lawyer and the FBI officer sitting there all the time, will the Indian investigators be able to do it? No. Headley will just give proforma replies to the Indian questions and these replies would have been rehearsed with his lawyer and got approved by him. Of what use, his proforma replies? Will we be able to prosecute him in India? If we decide to do so, will the US extradite him to India?

7.The departure of the Indian team to the US just before the Strategic Dialogue and the appearance of Mr.Obama at the State Department to talk to the Indian delegation is meant to prevent this issue from casting a shadow on the dialogue.

8.Do you remember what we were told after the so-called State visit of our Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, to Washington DC in November last? We were told of a counter-terrorism initiative which the two countries have embarked upon. We were told of the personal interest taken by Mr.Obama in the Headley case. We were told of his instructions to the FBI chief, Mr.Robert Mueller, to visit India and reassure his Indian counterparts of the FBI’s readiness to co-operate with India in this matter. Subsequently, the US Ambassador to India, Mr.Timothy Roemer, has been repeatedly telling Indian officials and people that the US was working “day and night” to meet the Indian request for access to Headley.

9. The outcome: A delay of eight months in giving us access and that too a limited access which reduces the entire exercise to a charade.

10. Should India have agreed to go along with this charade? Should the Manmohan Singh Government have literally colluded with the Obama Administration in playing a fraud on the Indian people by creating an illusion of Mr.Obama’s cooperation when the US has not been co-operating with India as it expects others to co-operate with it?

11. It would have been more in keeping with our national self-respect and dignity for the Manmohan Singh Government to have politely withdrawn its request to the US for access to Headley because of the lack of sincerity on the part of the Obama Administration and its belated action, which has reduced the utility of any interrogation by Indian investigators. ( 30-5-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )



The Indo-US Strategic Dialogue being held at Washington DC from June 1 to 4, 2010, should try to impart fresh life and momentum to some ideas mooted in the past, which have not made satisfactory progress in implementation.

2. The first relates to co-operation between the two countries in the fields of protection of critical information infrastructure and critical infrastructure. During the first tenure of Mr.George Bush as the President, the two countries had set up a joint Indo-US Cyber Security Forum to promote co-operation for the protection of the critical information infrastructure in the two countries. The Forum consisted of experts of not only the two Governments, but also of the private sector. The association of the private sector with a highly classified joint governmental forum indicated the realisation of the two Governments that considerable expertise on cyber security was available in the private sector, which had to be tapped for mutual benefit. It was also meant to create an awareness in the private sector of the need for strengthening cyber security in order to be able to protect the critical information infrastructure.

3. The joint Cyber Security Forum had a good start. It used to meet twice a year alternately in New Delhi and Washington DC and discussed a number of new ideas on the subject. It came under a cloud in the second tenure of Mr.Bush after it was found out by the Indian counter-intelligence that the Forum had been misused by the US intelligence for penetrating the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) of the Government of India and allegedly planting moles there. Since then, Indian enthusiasm for the Forum seems to have declined and there has been an understandable reluctance on the part of the Indian security agencies to consider any new ideas for co-operation with the US in such sensitive areas.

4. As a result, ideas for close Indo-US co-operation for the protection of critical infrastructure do not have many takers in the Indian security establishment. The US has undoubtedly developed new technologies for the protection of the critical information infrastructure and the critical infrastructure. India would stand to benefit from these technologies and from a regular exchange of ideas with US experts on the subject. To my knowledge, the setting-up of the joint Cyber Security Forum was not followed up with the setting-up of a joint Forum on the protection of the Critical Infrastructure. This needs to be done.

5. While the misuse of the Cyber Security Forum by the US intelligence agencies for penetrating the NSCS needs to be condemned, we should not allow this to come in the way of future co-operation between the two countries, with appropriate safeguards to ensure that the past misdeed by the US was not repeated. The two countries will benefit by resurrecting this idea and moving it forward.

6.The other idea relates to the promotion of Indo-US co-operation in the use of Science & Technology in Counter-terrorism and joint projects for research and development of homeland security technologies. A joint meeting of leading scientists and counter-terrorism experts of the two countries was held at Goa in January 2004, to discuss this idea. Among those, who addressed this meeting and welcomed the initiative were the then Indian President, Dr.Abdul Kalam, and Mr.Robert Blake, the present Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, who was then the No.2 in the US Embassy in New Delhi. As one who was associated with that meeting, I have been disappointed by the poor follow-up on this idea.

7. Closely associated with this was the idea of joint projects involving India, the US and Israel for the research and development of homeland security technologies. The idea came out of the thinking of an Israeli expert who addressed a gathering of security experts from the three countries, including this writer, who met in Israel in the beginning of 2004 to discuss how the three countries can co-operate in counter-terrorism. This idea too, like other good ideas, has remained without serious follow-up.

8. One of the problems in developing the strategic relationship between the two countries has been the plethora of generalities and platitudes which mark the periodic exchanges at the political and bureaucratic levels and dearth of concrete ideas whose implementation would be of benefit to both the countries and a marked lack of seriousness in following up on the few worthwhile ideas which keep coming up from time to time. It is time to identify concrete areas for bilateral cooperation and bring to bear a laser sharp focus on their implementation. (30-5-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate of the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E-mail: