From the Indian point of view, the deposition of David Coleman Headley through a video link is the second best alternative available, next to bringing him to book on Indian soil.
The deposition could shed light on the 26/11 conspiracy and the role of various terror groups, and other crucial details of the terror strike at multiple locations which left 166 dead on 26 to 28 November, 2008.
Headley had already confessed to his role in the offences in the US for which he is serving a 35-year sentence.
Headley had pleaded guilty to the allegations against him in exchange for a very major concession-that he would not be extradited, as reported by Mumbai Mirror. With that option foreclosed, Indian officials hit upon the idea of making Headley an approver, the report states.
In a hearing on 10 December, a special judge had pardoned Headley and made him an approver in the case subject to certain conditions.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam has resorted to the measure-of turning to an insider to reveal intricate details of terror plots-on a number of occasions. Most notable among these were the 1993 serial blasts and the 2003 blasts at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazar, both in Mumbai.
The measure has proved to be a particularly effective one, as terrorism conspiracies are naturally hatched in utmost secrecy, and direct evidence is very difficult to obtain in such cases.
This is more so as Headley has in the past implicated officers of Pakistan’s ISI in the conspiracy, as pointed out in this article in Scroll. Headley had reportedly named three officials — Col Haroon Shah, Major Samir Ali and Major Iqbal in a statement to the NIA in an American prison. With members of the Pakistan establishment also under the scanner apart from ‘non-state actors,’ the possibility of co-operation from India’s western neighbour decreases significantly. This makes the ongoing deposition even more important.
In his statement before a Mumbai court, Headley has also named Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, who has also been accused by India of being part of the 26/11 conspiracy, according to reports. While Pakistan has banned media coverage of the JuD, it has not banned the organisation per se, and continues to insist, despite international pressure, that the group is engaged in various social work activities and is not a terrorist organisation. Headley’s statements about Hafiz Saeed can put more pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the JuD.
However, the process of getting him to depose via video link was a complicated. According to the Mumbai Mirror report mentioned above, it started with a meeting between Nikam, the then Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria and Joint CP Atul Chandra Kulkarni. Subsequently, the idea was communicated to NSA Ajit Doval, who asked the Indian ambassador in the US to prepare the groundwork for the measure.
Later, Ujjwal Nikam along with a senior police officer made a ‘secret trip’ to the US in order to arrive at an agreement on the matter, The Indian Express reported in December last year. The decision to hold meeting with US officials was cleared by the home ministry, the report stated.
From the initial reports of David Headley’s deposition, it appears that the decision may be paying dividends. With Headley having nothing to lose, and India having everything to gain, it appears to be a win-win situation.
With inputs from IANS