One more nail

Headleys confession

Pakistan has become such a fig-leaf artist that nothing appears to shame it. So perhaps the confessions of David Coleman Headley, the self-indicted American of Pakistani origin who helped the Lasher-e-Toiba plan and execute the deadly Mumbai attack on 26/11, may only add ‘literature’ to the shelves of all the many literary giants that rule Pakistan today. However, India and the world will not be satisfied by such denial.

Pakistan’s lies have been nailed over and over again but it is able literally to get away with murder because it remains a crucial frontline state for the Americans in Afghanistan. Headley, who reconnoitered the targeted sites in Mumbai, has confessed to the existence of LeT training camps, which he visited in 2008, and to consorting with LeT members training to assault Mumbai and their handlers in Pakistan.

A quote from his plea bargain confession before a Chicago court on March 19, 2010, says it all: “Beginning no later than in or about  late 2005 (the Musharraf era),and continuing through on or about October 3, 2009 (the Kyani-Gilani era), at Chicago and elsewhere within and without the jurisdiction of the United States, defendant conspired with Lashkar members A, B, C and D, and others, to commit acts outside the United States... namely, murder and maiming in connection with attacks carried out by the Lashkar in India”. The dates are revealing.

Headley was a double agent, working for the US Drug Enforcement Agency, who had been arrested earlier and then let off the hook on condition that he went back to Pakistan and fed Washington with information about the terror network and drug mafia in that country. Yet India was not kept informed until much later and even after 26/11 when Headley was back in India reconnoitering more sites for the Lashkar. This was duplicitous, despite whatever information has been vouchsafed.
It is in line with the long rope earlier given to the notorious A Q Khan whom the US allowed to proliferate to and receive nuclear technology and material variously from China and Korea, and to negotiate with Iran, Libya and even Osama agents after he had been caught red handed by Dutch intelligence only to be let off by the CIA. In both cases the primary victim has been India.

India has been promised Headley’s testimony through interviews or video-conferencing in the US as part of Indian judicial processes, but he will not be extradited to this country. Whether giving ‘testimony’ allows for ‘interrogation’ remains to be seen, though the FBI had full access to Kasab. Possibly the US is worried that Headley he may reveal too much. Whatever be the case, there will be reservations about the US stance and sincerity until the outcome is known.

In a slumber
Pakistan must, however, be confronted with the new Headley revelations and its diversionary forays, asserting Indian mala fides on water and Balochistan-Afghanistan, nailed. India’s public communications policy has been abysmal over the years and little spurts of information disclosure is no great triumph. Public information policy —not jingoistic propaganda — is today a prime instrument of diplomacy, security, national morale and preparedness. It is time the government woke up to this reality.

General David Patraeus of the US central command recently told the Senate armed forces committee in Washington that elements like the LeT are not yet on Pakistan’s radar although he had praise for its fight against the al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan. But distinctions have begun to be made as between the good, ‘moderate’ (read Pakistan) Taliban, with whom it might be possible to do business, and ‘radical’ Taliban which must be fought to the end.

These are dangerous waters and India has real concerns based on bitter experience that US military aid to Pakistan ultimately goes in substantial measure to support jihad and confront India. The new US-Pakistan strategic dialogue opening in Washington, in which Gen Kayani will be the key Pakistan spokesman, should not be allowed to exacerbate these tendencies, American assurances having been consistently belied in the past.

Meanwhile, the BJP and Left criticism of the fuel price increase announced in the budget must factor in international trends that are beyond domestic control. The opposition cannot demand more expenditures on social and welfare programmes and cavil at efforts to raise resources at the same time.

Equally, the strident opposition to the civil liability for Nuclear Damage Bill is misplaced as being solely dictated by American interests. It is part of an international regime being built through various protocols to encourage investment and technological support for nuclear power development. This should not be stalled by fears of unlimited liability in case of a nuclear mishap. Victims will be more swiftly compensated through a limited vendor liability, an international compensation fund and insurance. Let not the country shoot itself in the foot.

The BJP and Left are threatening cut-motions on these issues during the Finance Bill. The blackmailing tactics of the SP, RJD and Trinamool Congress must be resisted. If the UPA falls, no other coalition will be able to form a government. So let the bluff be called and fresh elections held. The electorate will know whom to punish.

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