`India to get direct access to Headley soon`

The US has agreed to "take suitable steps" to give India quick access to David Headley.

Updated: Apr 28, 2010, 14:00 PM IST

Washington: India seems to be close to getting direct access to Pakistani American terror suspect David Coleman Headley, key plotter in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, with US agreeing to take "suitable steps" to bring it about.

Modalities were discussed at a meeting on Tuesday between India`s Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium and US Attorney General Eric Holder. Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar and other US Justice Department officials joined the talks.

"The two partners agreed to take suitable steps to bring about direct access by Indian authorities to David Headley as soon as possible," the Indian Embassy said. There was no comment from the US side.

"The partnership between India and the United States recognises the high priority to be accorded to each country`s national security," Indian officials said adding, "Both countries recognised the need for the investigations to reach a fruitful and successful outcome.

"The discussions have resulted in a mutual commitment that there would be the best possible cooperation in our common fight against terrorism," they said.

Subramanium`s visit to work out the modalities followed President Barack Obama`s assurances to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that India will get access to Headley, who has confessed to his role in the Mumbai assault in a bid to avoid the death penalty.

Obama had told Manmohan Singh during a meeting on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit earlier this month that he was aware of the legal issues, but India will get access to Headley, who has admitted to helping Pakistan based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) by scouting targets for the Mumbai attacks.

India`s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon had then discussed the issue in detail with his US counterpart Gen James Jones.

Only last week US Ambassador to India, Timothy J Roemer, told reporters in New Delhi that the "US is working at the highest level to provide direct access to Headley. Our government has put this as the highest priority in counter-terror cooperation."

"We recognise the sensitivity of this issue to India and the people of India," stressed Roemer, a former member of the 9/11 commission. "We want to ensure justice is brought to these blood-thirsty terrorist attackers, whether they kill thousands of people in New York or scores of them in Mumbai," he said.