New Delhi, July 1: India and the United Arab Emirates have decided to set up a joint working group on transnational crime and terrorism.
For the conglomeration of seven emirates — one of which, Dubai, has often refused to hand over India’s wanted criminals — the move may begin a new chapter of cooperation between the two sides.
Though the details are yet to be worked out, the group will allow direct interaction between the intelligence and security heads of India and the UAE.
Ajit Duval, an expert on counter-terrorism, is likely to lead the Indian team.
Once in place, the group will eliminate much of the red tape and ensure that intelligence agencies of either country do not have to go through their embassies when chasing wanted criminals.
The dramatic change in UAE’s attitude came after the September 11 terror strikes in the US. “The complacency broke when the twin towers of the WTC collapsed,” a government official said.
India had given up on the UAE after its authorities ignored the extradition treaty between the two sides to let off the hook underworld dons Anees Ibrahim and Abu Salem several times.
Today, however, the UAE is keen on closely cooperating with India on fighting terrorism and checking crime.
When Sheikh Mohamad bin Zayed, the emirates’ chief of defence and de facto national security adviser, called on L.K. Advani yesterday, the deputy Prime Minister thanked him for “the unprecedented deportation we have seen in recent months from the UAE”.
The spate of deportations started with the handing over of Aftab Ansari, wanted in the American Center attack in Calcutta.
Since then, several big-time criminals such as Iqbal Ibrahim, brother of Dawood, Ejaz Pathan, an accused in the Bombay bomb blasts, and Imran Rahman Khan, wanted in the Ghatkopar blast, have all been handed over by the UAE.
Several lesser known criminals have also been deported. Delhi hopes for the deportation of 50 to 60 others, against whom Interpol red-corner notices are out, who may travel through Dubai.
At the meeting, Advani had hoped both countries would continue their close cooperation in all spheres.
This was evident even earlier in January 2002, when Sheikh Mohamad had personally received the deputy Prime Minister who was travelling through the UAE. Mohamad and his brothers had later joined Advani for lunch at the home of Indian ambassador K.C. Singh.
The reason for creating the joint working group can be traced to the need to have an arrangement with the UAE central authorities in Abu Dhabi to help deal with criminals in the emirates.
According to government officials, the recent cooperation with Dubai, though good, was an unofficial arrangement, which worked because of the good rapport between individual officials on each side.
A formal arrangement, however, was required to ensure Abu Dhabi’s greater say in bilateral affairs as Dubai and the other emirates enjoyed quasi-independence in internal security, they said.