Long-term visas that gave suspected Lashkar operatives David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana a free run across the country had been issued without verifying their claims as required under a 2004 circular, a senior government official said.
Indian investigators mapping Headley and Rana’s activities during their long stays have found that head of chancery at Chicago had exercised his discretion without calling for verification of their claims.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna had promised to look into the possible lapse that enabled Rana and a woman, Samraz Rana Akhthar, who he claimed to be his wife, get multiple entry visas under the discretion of the Consul General.
The official said a message had been sent to all missions abroad in 2004 to verify antecedents of foreigners of Pakistan or Iranian origin, irrespective of their current nationality.
Rahul Chhabra, Minister (Press and Information) at the Embassy at Washington, refused to give a verbal reaction, insisting on a written questionnaire. He said the mission would then decide whether to give a response. But an email questionnaire by HT sent on Monday has gone unanswered.
Vishvas Sapkal, Consul General at Chicago — who was left to respond to media queries — told HT that the visas were given after “due scrutiny”. All procedures have been followed, he had said on Monday.
As per the procedure, no clearance from the home ministry was required in such cases, he told PTI on Wednesday.
Rana was given a year-long business visa and Samraz was here on a tourist visa valid for five years. Both arrived in Mumbai on November 12 last year after which they travelled to Kochi four days later.
“No one can say with certainty that the consulate would have been able to detect Rana’s Lashkar links during the verification process. Or that it would not have…but it was something that should certainly have been done,” a home ministry official in Delhi said.