The David Headley Problem
Image Credit: U.S. State Department (Flickr)

The David Headley Problem


There is understandable anger and grief in India over the United States recently sentencing David Coleman Headley to 35 years in prison. Formerly known as Daood Sayed Giulani, the Pakistani American Headley was one of the masterminds behind the November 26, 2008 terrorist assault on Mumbai that left 166 persons dead, including six Americans, and injuring hundreds of others.

In the years since Headley’s arrest in the U.S. in 2009, New Delhi has been demanding that Washington extradite him to India to face trial, where he would almost certainly receive the death penalty.  At the same time, the UPA government has also understood that extradition faced many legal and bureaucratic obstacles, making it unlikely to occur.

Thus India's response to Headley's sentence was one of measured frustration, with officials continuing to demand Headley ultimately be brought to India while stopping short of criticizing the sentence Headley received.

"We would have wanted him to be produced in court here and face trial because we suffered the maximum damage from him. We will continue to strive to ensure that people like him are brought here and made to face trial because I believe that if the trial took place here, the punishment would have been even more serious," India’s Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid said.

Home Secretary R.K.Singh was much more forthright in his reaction to the sentence, but he too stopped short of criticizing it.

"Our view is that all those involved in 26/11 case should receive death penalty. That has been our consistent stand… We want death sentence for Headley and those who were involved in killing of 166 people in Mumbai. We will keep asking for his death sentence,"  Singh said. He added: “We will continue to press for extradition of Headley. The agreement (not to extradite him to India) is between the U.S. and Headley, not with India….Headley was involved not only in Mumbai conspiracy, but he also carried out reconnaissance in other places. Our request for his extradition stands."

These reactions reflect the reality that the UPA government is stuck trying to navigate between the complicated legal logistics of extradition and its domestic political needs. Indeed, critics of the government have been adamant that it has not done enough to bring to justice those responsible for the Mumbai attacks. This has forced government officials to lobby Washington hard and publicly for extradition, all the while knowing that its success in this endeavor was doubtful. For instance, last November Khurshid wrote his U.S. counterpart, Hillary Clinton, a letter expressing hope that India would receive a favorable decision in the Headley case.

In one of those rare instances of the two major political parties being in agreement on an issue, the BJP has also demanded that Headley be extradited to India. The Opposition noted that the fact that the Mumabi attack killed six Americans—for which Headley was sentenced for in the U.S.— could not erase the fact that many more Indian nationals had perished.

February 21, 2013 at 08:39

Headley was born in 1960, so is now around 52 years old. 35 years on top of this is probably going to be the end of him. In essence this is a slow death sentence. Prison is a stressful place, so I wouldn't expect him to live forever.

February 21, 2013 at 04:11

Perhaps you shouldn't be so willy nilly about protecting terrorists. Maybe you should try reading the comment and thinking before you start typing. TWELVE years is plenty of time to try and convict ACTUAL terrorists, genious. Sticking your head in the sand and pretending like terrorists don't exist just helps terrorist murder people. Do you get that? Do you feel any responsiblity to the innocent people killed by terrorists to stop them? What do you say to Al Qaeda and Lashkar e Taiba's  victims??? ONE decade is plenty of time to talk… then they should be sent straight to Hell where they can be violated by 70 male whores… the Devil promised otherwise I know, but he does lie regularly.

Grænt Veldi
February 20, 2013 at 10:42

Yes, that's exactly what we want, the government willy-nilly hanging accused terrorists.  Obviously you haven't thought that particular policy through to its conclusion.

February 17, 2013 at 04:21

National Investigation Agency, not Intelligence.

February 17, 2013 at 04:17

Gilani not Giulani(Line No:6)

[...] Read Here – The Diplomat [...]

February 16, 2013 at 12:24

Britain has hosted, and continues to host the leadership of several international terrorist organizations, including some that are inimical to India's security, for example the Nagas, Khalistanis, Kashmiris to name a few. Britain used this advantage to armtwist and extract concessions from India on many ocassions in the past, the Westland Helicopter deal during Margaret Thatcher's time, in exchange for not allowing the Khalistani terrorists to operate openly in Britain, is one example.

It would be a mistake, if the Americans choose to follow the same path with regard to India.

February 16, 2013 at 12:18

May be US thinks he is a golden egg laying chicken.. U kill him u get one egg(satisfaction) or u keep him alive and get many more(informations).

February 16, 2013 at 08:06

Since the US is too damned stupid to hang a single terrorist for 9/11/01, I would like to see every terrorist in our custody handed over to the Indians and hanged without delay. The only reason we should not hang them is to get more information but it has been over twelve years already. The really upsetting thing is we already have a policy of choosing to kill them instead of capturing them because we are too stupid to figure out a way to get the information and then hang them after some time. We went from one extreme to the other since Obama just can't stand GITMO. UBL and Awlaki were killed but Major Hassan is being tried as if he just commited "workplace violence". Not one of them have been to military tribunal and hanged. We are so weak Indians make us look stupid. Just a little fired up on this…

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