US Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer (Pic: US Embassy, New Delhi)
The US seems to be painting itself into a corner over the extent of access it will provide India while questioning Mumbai terror plotter David Coleman Headley.
Barely four days after Attorney-General Eric Holder reportedly assured India’s Home Minister P. Chidambaram that New Delhi will be able to question Headley, US Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer now says that "no decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made".
Even Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake had assured India access to Headley. It turns out that assurance may have been somewhat premature. "As the assistant secretary indicated, the US is committed to full information sharing in our counter terror partnership," Roemer said in a statement.
"In fact in this case we have provided substantial information to the government of India and we will continue to do so. However, no decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made,” the ambassador said.
This flip-flop is only helping to serve mounting suspicions in India that the US has something to hide about Headley. Allegations that he was an agent working under cover for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the 1990s before he went rogue and got radicalized have resurfaced. Many in India believe that Headley probably had much deeper links with US intelligence and that entanglement could be influencing the decision about how much access India should be given.
At the very least, one can safely argue that for reasons not fully comprehensible the US is dithering over its decision to expose Headley to some direct questions from Indian investigators. What is behind that reluctance is a fertile ground for all sorts of conspiracy theories.