The decision by India to cancel permission to Emirates Airlines for special flights during the holiday season is unlikely to have much impact on the United Arab Emirates’s policies towards Indian fugitives. It is unfortunate that the UAE allowed Mr Anees Ibrahim, wanted by India, to get away, but it is unclear how cancelling flights will make a difference. What is needed is for India to ensure that its criminal investigation agencies are made more effective and that there is sufficient international awareness about India’s sensitivities regarding individual terrorists, criminals and specific terrorist organizations. It may be recalled that in the recent past, the Central Bureau of Investigation has had to be disappointed in a variety of cases where cooperation from institutions abroad was sought. This is not restricted to the countries of the Arab world, but includes states like Portugal, Thailand and Malaysia. Despite the fact that Interpol had issued red alert notices in many of these cases, individual countries were unwilling to send back “wanted” Indian fugitives for a variety of reasons.
In many cases, the CBI had not done its homework properly and was not able to convince the court in the country in question that extradition was necessary. It has also often been seen that the CBI does not display sensitivity to local practices and conventions. In other words, the CBI must not just have a watertight case, but it should also be able to present its arguments in the legal idiom of the host country. There also needs to be synergy created between Indian investigating agencies and Indian diplomatic missions abroad. Often, India’s embassy or high commission can be seen acting at cross-purposes with the CBI. Finally, there are, of course, countries with which India has not signed any bilateral extradition treaty. All these factors act as a hurdle in the way of securing cooperation. The way out is clearly to improve the functioning of the CBI and take steps to institutionalize bilateral cooperation.
It makes no sense to stop 16 special flights of Emirates during the holiday season. The UAE is unlikely to do very much now that Mr Ibrahim has fled the country and cancelling flights is only going to have an impact on the tourism industry within India. Moreover, cancelling flights of an international airline will send a wrong signal. The ministry of civil aviation had initiated an experimental open sky policy between December 2002 and March 2003, and the Dubai-based Emirates was one of the few airlines that sought additional bookings. Indeed, the bookings had been given to the airline by the ministry, and only once the application was brought before the directorate general of civil aviation were they cancelled. The Anees Ibrahim affair does hold lessons for the future, but imprudent and impulsive reactions are not called for.