Although the Union government was supposed to be putting pressure on the US government to extradite David Headley, a Lashkar-e-Tayeba operative and one of the planners of the November 2008 (‘26/11’) attack on Mumbai, a secret US diplomatic cable suggests this was not so.
The cable, part of the revelations made by Wikileaks, says former National Security Advisor M K Narayanan, now governor of West Bengal, had indicated to American diplomats in December 2009 that the government was not keen on the demand and only wanted to be seen doing so.
Claiming that Narayanan had told him on December 17, 2009, that the Union government was not keen on Headley’s extradition “at this time”, US ambassador Timothy J Roemer had cabled Washington that it was difficult for the Indian government not to be seen making an effort for the extradition.
The secret cable also suggest Roemer wanted India to commit not to demand Headley’s extradition, and Narayanan had told him during discussions that the Union government would be “in the hot seat” if it were seen not demanding extradition of one of the main accused.
“Roemer explained that the threat of extradition to India could cause Headley's cooperation to dry up, but that allowing the US judicial process to unfold or securing a plea agreement that both reflects his overall culpability and ensures his continued cooperation would maximize our ability to obtain further information from Headley,” the secret US cable said.
The US diplomat had also highlighted in the cables the unprecedented effort to share intelligence in the case of Headley and conveyed here that the US was following up on questions and requests that arose from the information the US had already provided in the case.
Narayanan said the cable gave a false impression. “There is no question about the fact that we are serious about his extradition. We are interested about information about him,” he told reporters in Chennai.