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Tiff over US duo’s visas

New Delhi, Nov. 18: The home and external affairs ministries appear to have got into a spat over the way visas were granted to suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana.

The home ministry has cited visa guidelines, which it says were issued by it in 2004 and circulated to Indian embassies, saying its approval should be taken before issuing visas to people whose origins lie in Pakistan, Iran and a few other countries.

This was not done in the case of Headley and Rana, both with roots in Pakistan, a home ministry source pointed out today. “The guidelines state that before visas are granted to people born in Pakistan or Iran, the home ministry should be kept in the loop,” the source said.

But the Indian consulate in Chicago, which issued the multi-entry visas to the duo last year, said no home ministry clearance was needed. The visas were granted after “due scrutiny of the available documents”, it said. “The consulate issued visas to Rana and his spouse as per the established procedure for persons of Pakistani origin. As per the procedure, no prior clearance from the ministry of home affairs was required in such cases,” consul Vishvas Sapkal said.

External affairs minister S.M. Krishna said the matter was “being looked into”.

Headley and Rana were arrested by the FBI in Chicago in October for plotting terror attacks in India and Europe. While Rana visited India once, Headley came nine times, stayed in several cities and met hundreds of people.

Following the investigation into Headley and Rana’s terror trail in India by the National Investigation Agency, embassies have been instructed to refer such cases to the home ministry, the source said.

India’s visa regime is being revamped after 23,000 Chinese nationals were found working on business visas earlier this year. They have been told to secure employment visas.

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