Headley access given by US unprecedented: Menon

November 2nd, 2010 - 7:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama New Delhi, Nov 2 (IANS) Days before US President Barack Obama’s visit here, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon Tuesday downplayed the row over 26/11 intelligence sharing by the US pointing out that access given by Washington to the Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley was “unprecedented”.

“In India, (there is a debate on) how much did the US know about Headley at what time and how much did they tell us. If you look at the broader picture, the kind of access we got to Headley is unprecedented,” Menon said at a seminar on India-US relations here four days before Obama comes to India on a four-day visit.

“This is not what many states do very easily,” he said in a bid to quell a raging controversy over the nature of intelligence shared by the US with India that hinted at the Mumbai conspiracy over two years ago.

Menon’s remarks came days after Home Secretary G.K. Pillai voiced disappointment over the US not sharing specific information on David Headley that could have helped New Delhi avert the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai carnage. In response, US ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer had asserted that the US shared every information it had both before and after 26/11.

Menon wondered whether this kind of cooperation would have been possible about five years back and stressed that the dissatisfaction over certain aspects of the ties was because people expect “much more” out of this burgeoning relationship.

“People expect much more out of this relationship. So, a lot of dissatisfaction we hear, whether it is outsourcing or counter-terrorism, (it is because) we expect this relationship to do much more,” Menon said.

Conjuring an optimistic picture of the future of India-US relations, Menon said the achievements of the relationship were “unprecedented” which neither of the two countries would have considered five or ten years back.

“The level of engagement between our two countries is unprecedented. We never had this kind of engagement with each other in our history. There is no sphere of human endeavour in which we do not actually cooperate… the range of our engagement is quite unprecedented,” he said.

Underlining the need for pragmatism, Menon said that Obama’s Nov 6-9 visit has given both the countries an opportunity to “actually put into practice, and not just to showcase, what we actually practice”.

“I think we should do what we do best. We should be pragmatic and work the relationship where it works… I think we have the moment where we can be ambitious about the relationship,” Menon said.

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