July 17, 2007Foreign AffairsSecurity

Half wrong on Haneef

India’s attempt to protect its citizen would have been more effective if it had also made serious efforts in the international investigation.

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Even after days of searching and interrogation, Australian and British authorities do not have sufficient evidence to file charges against Mohammed Haneef, the Indian doctor suspected of being involved’ in the amateurish terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow. That’s generally par for the course as far as terrorism is concerned and the reason why countries from the United States to Australia had to do what India did more than a decade ago—compromise on normal standards of civil liberties and enact tough’ anti-terror legislation.

Even so, the Australian government has sunk a lot deeper by revoking Haneef’s work visa. So even if he were not proven guilty he is likely to be deported back to India. Australians must hold their government to account for these dubious practices. While Australia has not covered itself with glory on this one, what about India?

Some of its nationals have been found to be complicit in the London/Glasgow plot, while others are under investigation and presumed innocent until proven guilty. So the correct approach would have been first, to co-operate (on its own terms) with British and Australian authorities in unravelling the conspiracy; and second, protect — and credibly demonstrate the intention to protect at all costs — the lives and well-being of Indian citizens living abroad. Never forgive governments, organisations or individuals who harm Indians.”

The UPA government, it turns out, has been content to attempt the latter while paying little attention to the former. Indeed, it is commendable that the foreign ministry has taken up Haneef’s case with the Australian government. Yet such lecturing will have little credibility unless India is sensitive to the interests of British and Australian investigators. There’s a missed opportunity here: for years, Indian security officials have complained that Western intelligence agencies have been unsympathetic to India’s efforts to fight cross-border terrorism. This was a chance for India to seize the initiative and institute a framework of co-operation—at various levels—with Western counter-terrorism agencies.

But imagination and initiative is not something that the UPA government can be accused of. Instead, the prime minister made emotional appeals against stereotyping entire communities while lack of high-level stewardship left the British and Australian authorities with the bitter taste of Indian red-tape. And no, the UPA government’s reluctance to fight terrorism is not restricted to incidents in foreign lands. It is just as unwilling to expedite the delivery of justice to the victims of terrorism at home.

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