The UAE, which once housed India’s most-wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim, has extradited at least 4 high-profile persons in the past year.
New Delhi: With three high-profile extraditions taking place in less than two months, the United Arab Emirates is no longer a safe haven for criminals and alleged offenders absconding from India.
Wednesday night, Dubai-based businessman Rajeev Saxena, wanted in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, and corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar were deported and brought back to India in a plane belonging to the Aviation Research Centre, the aviation wing of India’s external intelligence agency RAW.
All this is part of India’s improving relations with the Middle-Eastern country, which once housed the likes of underworld don and 1993 Bombay serial blasts prime accused Dawood Ibrahim.
Upswing in cooperation
India managed to hit it big last month with the extradition of VVIP chopper scam accused Christian Michel from Dubai, a development which works in the favour of the BJP-led government just a few months before the national elections.
Another big achievement was the deportation of Ibrahim’s aide Farooq Takla, who was brought from Dubai to Mumbai in March last year.
This follows the 2016 extradition of Abdul Wahid Siddibapa, who was allegedly associated with terror outfit Indian Mujahideen. He was first arrested in the UAE in 2014, but was deported only two years later, as Indian agencies believe Pakistan worked hard to ensure he wouldn’t be deported.
Cooperation with Saudi Arabia has also improved in recent years, the prime example being the extradition of 26/11 plotter Abu Jundal in 2012, despite Pakistan’s push to stop it.
Credit to the Modi touch
UAE’s envoy to India, Ahmed Al Banna, had this week credited important strategic ties and the “personal” touch between the leadership of the two countries as the reason for Michel’s extradition.
His view is supported by Vijay Chauthaiwale, the BJP’s foreign affairs department head, who asserts that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visits to the UAE and his efforts to build friendship have helped the countries’ relations.
“Prime Minister Modi in his trips has focussed on multi-dimensional friendship. The new-found friendship between UAE and India has led to these three high-profile extraditions. There is no doubt that Modi has been able to build stronger and deeper ties, which has opened up many avenues,” Chauthaiwale told ThePrint.
Other factors also at play
However, others say the improvement in relations is a combination of various factors, and not just the Modi factor.
“One cannot entirely credit it to the visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In all these cases, India has leveraged its position vis-à-vis the countries involved,” said Sushant Sareen, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.
Sareen underlined that in all cases, the Indian government has pushed hard, and there have been examples of quid pro quo too.
“Extraditing Indian nationals is one thing and foreign nationals like Michel is another. Remember, that a country will extradite an individual only when it has something to gain and nothing to lose,” he said.
Sanjeev Tripathi, former chief of the R&AW, says “more trust” and better understanding between the governments and agencies have led to these extraditions.
An open secret that no one in the security establishment really talks about is the case of India sending back Dubai’s Princess Latifa, who had apparently fled from her family. Latifa was believed to be picked up by Indian agencies off the Goa coast last year and handed back to the UAE. Experts argue that this has led to the sudden surge in the friendship between India and the UAE.
Anil Trigunayat, India’s former ambassador to Jordan and an expert on the Middle-East, says the groundwork started way back in 2008, with high-profile visits and exchanges taking place.
“India has worked on extradition treaties and on building a different level of relationship for long. Over the years, these countries have realised where the butter lies. They see India as a better bet. Not to forget the fact that the strong Indian diaspora has also played a role,” Trigunayat, a distinguished fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation said.
He added that such extraditions also help these countries showcase their efforts in the global fight against terrorism.
“These are small things for these countries. At the same time, credit should also go to Prime Minister Modi for striking a personal friendship with the leadership of these countries, which has also helped,” he said.
White collar criminals, not terrorists
However, K.C. Singh, India’s former ambassador to the UAE and Iran, argued that getting a “white collar criminal” was easier than terrorists.
“The deportation started way back in 2001, when I was the envoy. The latest deportations are highly politicised, since they have political ramifications. The UAE is not bothered. Their concern always has been Pakistan, and in these cases, Pakistan has no issues,” Singh said.