Deadly Headley’s conquest of India

New Delhi: “I came, I saw, I conquered” - Julius Caeser’s tall claim got personified in David Coleman Headley’s adventures in India. And what our intelligence agencies were doing all the time? Of course, chasing Indian Muslim youths for their alleged role in blasts in every nook and corner of the country. And once he left, or rather was allowed to leave, they have been singing Hindi film song – karvaN guzar gaya, ghubar dekhte rahe.

The Statesman hits the nail hard when it argues, over the “intelligence wails”, the hue and cry raised by our smart sleuths over America’s “failure” in sharing intelligence. One is tempted to ask: are our sleuths really idiots or only pretending to be? What precisely can one expect from a friendly agency? An exact minute-to-minute forecast of their possible attack? Time as well as exact location? A country which spends huge budget to gather data, will it throw it away to help a friend? The immediate outcome of Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai’s verbal attack on the “War on Terror” partner was – it checked the flow of information. The Statesman has rightly observed that the Home Secretary betrayed the incompetence of our system. Instead of appreciating whatever little they had tipped off, we have indulged in releasing our steam at the most inappropriate occasion. That is why Mail Today predicted: Home Secretary ruins Obama’s India party. In a tit-for-tat, the U.S. Ambassador did not mince words in expressing his annoyance at India’s charges of not sharing all (or vital) information. Does a friend who seduces someone’s wife drop such vital clues? How naïve are we in arguing that we could have detained Headley when he had arrived in India in March 2009 after the 26/11 event.

To raise the issue that the investigation team which interrogated Headley was not allowed to probe much about his wives is an equally ridiculous demand. Are they (the wives) fools enough to tell our Indian sleuths everything that they wanted to divulge to FBI? And why? Even if allowed to visit and ask them, we shall remain as ignorant as ever. It will of course enable a few officers to visit USA on this doomed project. Will Pakistan allow them to do so? The “courtesy” it had extended to Headley’s second wife of Moroccan-origin in crossing the Wagha border was not without specific intention. Will the FBI and ISI allow these over enthusiastic “better” (or bitter) halfs to divulge all?

Headley has been visiting India quite frequently and this should have raised suspicion in the minds of our intelligence agencies. Were we simply carried away by Aamir Khan’s tourist department slogan – Atithi Devo Bhava? Couldn’t we smell a rat? Why does a person visit India so regularly without a valid justification? Each visit enabled him to do a recce of all the important establishments. What the security guards were doing at these establishments? Smiling while he was busy videographing these establishments? The list of these 50-odd places is quite impressive: 7 Race Cource Road (PM’s residence), Bombay Stock Exchange, Bal Thackrey’s house, Siddhi Vinayak temple, National Defense College (Delhi), World Trade Centre Mumbai, Haji Ali, Gateway of India, CST, Mumbai police headquarters, Paharganj (for a second attack), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Taj President, naval air station, Chabad House, Maharashtra Assembly, Air India office and Gujarat Oil Refinery.

At the time of CWG, there used to be advertisements in newspapers to be “our eyes and ears.” The common man was asked to assist the intelligence agencies by passing information to them. What our highly trained sleuths had been doing at those places? Don’t they have their own “informers” at these security-risk establishments? Frequent entries at the Taj President reception counter should have alerted them where Headley used to stay so often. Wasn’t there a single “informer” to smell the rat? It is because of such flip-flop attitude that no USA President ever stays at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. They make their own arrangements. The enormous budget they spend, as being reported every day, is a valid excuse to expose our incompetence in security matters. It is feared that Obama’s visit might be “spoiled” by reenacting a Chhattsingpura-kind of tragedy as was done earlier on the eve of Bill Clinton’s visit. As already hinted by the Union home secretary, a countrywide vigil is being maintained. However, the Diwali crowds, cracker explosions (and even recent Kanpur explosion) might give the players sufficient cover to execute their operation. One wonders why the Presidential visit was scheduled at a time when police are normally overburdened with festival-related mishaps.

Noise is being made about America’s reluctance to divulge much about Headley’s activities during the past few years. This Pakistan-born Muslim, son of a Jewish mother, was a much sought after “mole” for American agencies. Aware of his potentials as a smuggler, the CIA must have chosen him for his several qualities – American nationality, Pakistani background and Jewish identity. Needless to say, these very qualities might have endeared him to the ISI too. Hence, both the agencies, inspite of their awareness about his role as a double-agent, turned a blind eye towards many of his “misdeeds.” Veer Singhavi rightly feels so.

When we expect America to share information; doesn’t Pakistan, an old ally, have a more stronger claim on sharing information with America. After all, ISI survives on CIA’s funding. Hence, both America and Pakistan allowed him full tether as long as his activities were not against the two countries. Who cares for India? Are we really wise in believing that America cares for us? America bothers about none except its own interests. Hence to shout on rooftops that America maintains an enigmatic silence on Headley’s pranks seems to be pretty silly. So if FBI turned a deaf ear to David’s wives’ complaints, they did so deliberately. The FBI was well aware of what he has been doing but did not want to “encourage” his two wives in spilling the beans so as to avoid media attention. The lesson our country must learn from Headley adventures is to develop better network. The silly “secrets” that Headley is said to have divulged either about Isharat or Nepal setup or a hand in Chattisinghpura, are a part of a well-oiled exercise. In this context it is pointed out that not America but Germany provided more useful clues to India. About the imminent strikes at the time of CWG, 14 such tips came from Germany and adequate actions could be taken to ensure the safety of the Games. There are 200 Germans trained in Pakistani camps waiting for an opportunity to strike. UK was also prompt in taking cognisance of such tips and took preemptive measures. Why should Pakistan be interested in a terror strike prior to Obama’s visit? We are told that this would enable Pak to push for U.S. involvement in Kashmir imbroglio.