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Suspect In Mumbai Attacks A Thorn In U.S.-India Ties

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Suspect In Mumbai Attacks A Thorn In U.S.-India Ties

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Suspect In Mumbai Attacks A Thorn In U.S.-India Ties

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Relations between India and the United States are the high point, boosted by President Obama's recent visit and a host of new business ties. But for many Indians, the relationship has been tainted by one man: David Coleman Headley. The Pakistani-American once worked for both the U.S. government and terrorists based in Pakistan, and he has confessed to scouting targets for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.

As NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from New Delhi, many Indians believe that U.S. officials have yet to reveal all they know about the man.

COREY FLINTOFF: David Headley has been a shadowy figure in the United States. He was arrested on terror charges in Chicago in October of 2009.

Mr. SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN (Bureau Chief, The Hindu): The Indian government was informed about his arrest perhaps three months later. That's when the Indian media began writing and reporting about what exactly he'd been up to.

FLINTOFF: That's Siddharth Varadarajan, bureau chief of The Hindu newspaper in New Delhi.

It came out that Headley, who'd been convicted on drug charges in the United States in the 1990s, had gotten an early release from prison so that he could serve as an informer for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Headley made several trips to Pakistan, apparently to report on drug trafficking.

What makes Indians so angry is that U.S. agencies had warnings that Headley had links to an anti-India terrorist group called Lashkar-e-Taiba, based in Pakistan.

Mr. VARADARAJAN: The DEA may have heard stories about what he was doing. One of Headley's wives may have complained to the FBI that this guy, apart from beating her, was also involved with the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

FLINTOFF: Varadarajan says U.S. agencies apparently didn't share that information, either among themselves or with Indian intelligence.

Mr. VED MARWAH (Retired, Police Commissioner/Intelligence Officer): David Coleman Headley is just a tip of that iceberg.

FLINTOFF: This is Ved Marwah, a retired police commissioner and intelligence officer. He expresses the widespread Indian belief that Pakistan's government, its military and its intelligence service, the ISI, are deeply involved in supporting anti-India terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba. He says that the United States has long ignored India's warnings about these connections, in part because the U.S. hoped for Pakistan's support for the war in Afghanistan.

Mr. MARWAH: But here again, I think America is making a huge mistake. They were wrong earlier and they are wrong now. Because if they think that Pakistani army can be persuaded and not pressurized to change its course, they are in for a huge surprise.

FLINTOFF: Marwah believes that Pakistan will continue to support terrorists like Headley, and that the U.S. must share intelligence information with India to prevent further attacks.

Pakistan denies any involvement in the attacks and says it has cooperated in the investigation.

American officials did, in fact, give Indian intelligence agents a chance to interrogate Headley as he was being held in Chicago, but only three months after he had been arrested.

Varadarajan says that raised the perception that U.S. intelligence officials feared that Headley could reveal too much about Pakistani involvement.

Mr. VARADARAJAN: They realized that the information Headley has will implicate the Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence agency, to a much higher degree than what might be politically comfortable for America to implicate.

FLINTOFF: For that reason, Varadarajan says, Indians suspect they may never know the whole truth.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, New Delhi.

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