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.

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.

13 thoughts on “Half wrong on Haneef”

  1. Nitin:

    In your previous post, you had pronounced Haneef guilty without giving him slightest benefit of doubt:

    Dr Mohammed Haneef—a person who practiced medicine (and succumbed to the jihadi mindtrap)…

    As it turns out, and you admit in this post, the evidence against him is extremely weak.

    Also, I don’t see anything wrong with the ’emotional’ appeal of Dr. Manmohan Singh. As he noted, he has seen the disastrous consequences of stereotyping communities.

    I am totally in favor of Indian government co-operating in international terrorism investigations. I would just like to add that there are not many indicators that the plot was hatched in India or any logistical support provided from within the country.

  2. Mohib,

    My argument—and you should read the first paragraph of this post in full—is that they couldn’t find evidence to charge him, and this is par for the course. I hope he’s innocent, but I fear that he’s not.

    As for Dr Manmohan Singh’s emotional appeal, I expect a head of government to behave differently from a civil liberties activist. But let’s put that aside for a moment. An objective person will find it hard to take him seriously when his government has failed on every single aspect of terrorism—from those series of blasts in Delhi, Malegaon, Mumbai, Varanasi etc, to Naxalism to ULFA. I’ll take lectures from someone who’s shown success in tackling terrorism. Like KPS Gill for instance.

    Finally, as B Raman’s piece suggests, Karnataka police have found that Kafeel’s radicalisation happened in Bangalore. As for logistical support from India, again, I hope there wasn’t any. But what’s the harm in looking really hard to make sure there was none.

  3. >>> Also, I don’t see anything wrong with the ‘emotional’ appeal of Dr. Manmohan Singh.

    I suppose it would have been wrong if it were a non-muslim in a foreign jail !!

  4. “As he noted, he has seen the disastrous consequences of stereotyping communities.”

    I don’t see how suspecting one Haneef of terrorism amounts to “stereotyping communities”.

  5. The fact is that any other country (and particularly the US) would have thrown a fit if their citizen had been treated in this manner.

  6. Nitin, I thought the Bangalore police started investigating from their side from day one after it became known that our doctors were involved. May be I missed the red tape part.

    Talking of red tape, the British are notorious for not cooperating with Indian law enforcement with regards to Islamic terror and especially with regards to Kalistan terrorists. The Americans are at least listening, after Sept 11, even if they don’t share intel, to Indian terror concerns. The British have never cooperated. They have really little reason to complain about our own red-tape.

  7. “… There’s a missed opportunity here …”

    Err…no. I kind of agree with Chandra, these opportunities are two-way affairs. There is no need for us to jump up and down and demonstrate eagerness, unless we can ensure that we get the same amount of sensitivity to our concerns that you are prescribing for the Indian govt towards UK/ Oz.

    Slightly on a tangent:

    I absolutely support Haneef, based on the flimsy evidence currently known against him there is really no case. But I hope we have a consistent policy and can expect a Union Minister to fly down to meet the aggrieved family, express govt. sympathy and support regardless of whether this suspect is say:

    vokkaliga (gesture can net ~1cr votes?)
    parsi (~50000 votes?)
    jew (~1000 votes?)

    regards,
    Jai

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