US Director of Intelligence Meets Chidambaram

New Delhi
US Director of Intelligence Meets Chidambaram
Ahead of a crucial hearing in a Chicago court where American terror suspect David Headley is likely to plead guilty, a top US intelligence official today met Union Home Minister P Chidambaram when they discussed progress in the case.

Accompanied by US Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis C Blair and a delegation of Forensic officials met Chidambaram amidst speculation that the issue of Headley's plea bargaining could have been a matter of discussion.

Both sides remained silent on the meeting. The US Envoy parried questions on reports of plea bargaining by Headley, the Lashkar-e Taiba operative held in the US, and whether it was discussed during Blair's meetings with Chidambaram.

Government sources said the Indian side had earlier in the day sought access to Headley's American wife to ascertain whether she had any knowledge about his activities in India.

The demand was made when Blair met IB Chief Rajiv Mathur, Director General of National Investigation Agency S C Sinha and other top intelligence officials.

The Indian probe agencies have claimed that she had knowledge about his activities during his stay in the sub-continent.

49-year-old Headley is married to two women including a Moroccan, who spilled the beans on him. Charged with conspiring in the Mumbai terror attacks, he is set to plead guilty before a US court in an apparent bid to bargain for a lighter sentence and escape death penalty.

Indian security establishment does not expect Headley to escape with a lighter sentence in view of the charge against him in Mumbai terror attack in which six American nationals were killed.

The meeting between Chidambaram and US officials also dwelled on issues related to terrorism emanating from Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

On the hour-long meeting with Chidambaram, Roemer said it was aimed at updating the Home Minister on "continued, very close cooperation" between India and the US as per the "historic understanding" reached between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama in November last on fighting the "common enemy of terrorism and continuing to work together".

He told reporters that the US has been receiving "unprecedented day-by-day, hour-by-hour co-operation" from India on counter terrorism issues.

The two sides are understood to have discussed the issue of terrorism that continues to emanate from Pakistan and threatening India as well as many other parts of the world.

Blair recently said Pakistan was using militant groups like Lashkar-e Taiba as strategic tools against India.

Pakistan's conviction that "militant groups are an important part of its strategic arsenal to counter India's military and economic advantages will continue to limit its incentive to pursue an across-the-board effort against extremism," he told the Select Committee on Intelligence.

He had said Pakistan continues to support and maintain ties with terror groups having links to the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani network, despite taking action against militants in the country.
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