Perceptively, India at large felt dismally betrayed after the light sentence given to David Coleman Hedley by a Chicago court for his active role in planning and execution of the horrendous Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks. The Indians at large feel that the United States has deceived India on a number of counts and that does not speak well of the US-India Strategic Partnership that both nations acclaim. This perception may mark the beginning of a trust deficit in India of United States as a reliable strategic partner of India, notwithstanding that India should not have expected the United States to act differently.
Firstly, India expected that in view of his proven guilt in Mumbai 26/11, Gilani a.k.a. Hedley should have been extradited to India as the terrorist crimes or more rather ‘war crimes’ against India took place on Indian soil and Hedley had staked out targets in India physically himself. Indians argue that since an Extradition Treaty exists between the United States and India this should have been done as an act of faith by the United States.
Secondly, knowing well Hedley’s complicity in the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, and Indian sensitivities on it, the United States disregarded Indian sensitivities by entering into a plea bargaining agreement by which the United States conceded that Hedley would not be extradited to India and also that Hedley would not be given the death sentence. On both counts Indians perceive that the United States has rubbed salt into Indian wounds.
Indians feel vindicated that the Chicago Judge who sentenced Hedley stated that he felt that rightly Hedley should have been given the death sentence but that the US Public Prosecutor, n office-holder of the US Government demanded only a sentence of 35 years. Indians perceive that had the US Government not sided with Hedley, the Chicago Judge would have sentenced Hedley to death, which is what he deserved in view of the two hundred lives lost.
Thirdly the continued efforts by US officials and spokespersons to reiterate after the sentence that justice has been served by this sentence by this sentence as demanded by the US Public Prosecutor makes Indians more mad at the act of betrayal by the United States.
The United States seems to have gone half way in this entire trial of a Pakistani-origin US citizen who actively participated in an international terrorism act in which not only two hundred Indians were killed but also US and Israeli citizens. That does not speak well of American protestations of fighting a Global War on terrorism with allies and friends.
Indians argue that if the United States actively pressurises other countries into rendition to United States custody and trial of international terrorists involved in terrorist attacks against USA then by the same token the United States should have rendered Hedley to India for trial and conviction in India, even if the death sentence was a logical outcome. Evidently, the United States does not seem to have any convincing answers for this.
The power of Indian public opinion does not seem to have been recognised by the United States in this case and also earlier all along. The United States long used to deal with and mange relations with dictators and authoritarian regimes feels that India can be handled the same way. It is decidedly not so as the average Indian is more politically conscious on political and foreign policy issues. To expect that the present Indian regime would be able to insulate the United States against adverse Indian public opinion is an unrealistic proposition.
Even now all is not lost for the United States if it belatedly takes a decision that Hedley needs to be tried by India for the death of nearly two hundred innocent Indian lives in Mubai9/11 having been convicted only for the killings of six Americans in Mumbai 26/11.
If not so then Indians who in public debates claim that the United States has ‘double standards’ on the killings of American and Indians are right. In the same connection, the United States giving indemnity to Pakistan Army ISI Chief and other Pak Army military officers against being brought charges against them in US courts adds another diabolical dimension to United States intentions vis-à-vis India in bringing a just closure of the wanton killings in Mumbai 26/11.
The Indian Government too cannot be absolved of not forcefully making it known to the United States of the intensity of Indian public opinion against not extraditing Hedley to India and cautioning the United States against any plea bargaining by the United States with this abominable Pakistani terrorist, even though a US citizen. The Indian Government becomes supine when it comes to the United States.
Concluding, all that can be said is that perceptively today India –at-large feels betrayed by the United States not only in relation to not extraditing Hedley to India but also that United States much vaunted Global War on Terrorism is one big sham. It is such insensitivities by the United States in the past that have led to Estrangement of the Two Democracies.