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India eyes Europe extradition pact

New Delhi, Feb. 21: Having struggled long and hard to get Abu Salem extradited from Portugal, India is now negotiating an extradition treaty with the European Union.

The treaty will allow Delhi to have any criminal extradited from EU member states.

The treaty was discussed by foreign minister Yashwant Sinha during a meeting last week with his Irish and Dutch counterparts, as well as EU commissioner for external relations Chris Patten.

India also wants to join Europol, the EU’s police agency, as part of its fight against global terrorism, drug trafficking and criminal activity. Europol is similar to Interpol, but is mainly made up of EU nations.

It now appears that Salem may be extradited from Portugal, but matters would certainly have moved more swiftly if Delhi had had an extradition treaty with the EU. India now wants a treaty with all EU member states to ensure it is easier in future to extradite criminals.

Delhi feels the exchange of information on Salem, one of the prime conspirators in the 1993 Bombay blasts case, would have been much swifter if it had dealt with Europol, not Interpol.

Europol, short for European Police Office, was established as a result of the Maastricht Treaty on European economic and monetary integration in 1992. It is a law enforcement organisation handling criminal intelligence and became fully operational in 1999. The organisation helps law enforcement agencies in EU member states in investigations into serious international crime.

Though most Europol members are also part of the EU, they have realised that international organised crime does not stop at national borders. Europol has been active in establishing networks with countries joining the EU as well as other important partners. India wants to be one of the non-European members of the outfit.

The interest shown by the EU troika in India’s request to join Europol shows how seriously it is being treated now.

Reinforcing this view have been the recent official trips made by British home secretary David Blunkett, foreign secretary Jack Straw and French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin. That these visits took place when Lok Sabha elections are round the corner shows the level of confidence European leaders have in Delhi and the Indian leadership.

India and the EU share common positions on Iraq and Afghanistan and want to deepen economic and cultural ties. The union openly admires the “courageous political step” taken by India to normalise relations with Pakistan and has said Delhi’s initiative to bring peace to the region should be used as an example to resolve conflicts in other parts of the world.

Last week’s meeting with Sinha was aimed at preparing the ground for the India-EU Summit at the Hague slated for end-November or early December.

Some key areas where the two sides desire deeper and better cooperation were identified; the two sides may also agree on maritime cooperation.

India and the EU already have pacts on anti-terrorism, information technology and customs matters.

The union is eyeing India as a strategic partner in the area. Its readiness to accept Delhi’s view on South Asian developments indicates the importance it is according India politically as well as an emerging economic power.

The EU plans to bring out a strategic paper on India – it has prepared papers before only on the US and China.

Unlike Washington, the EU does not have problems over outsourcing. Not only does the union encourage such measures, it also regards the US stand as “protectionist” and hampering economic globalisation.

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