PM Modi, May vow to fight terror, criticize Pakistan

NEW DELHI: India and the UK took a strong joint stance on terrorism and security issues after the first summit meeting between prime ministers Narendra Modi and Theresa May here on Monday.

With India and the UK exchanging lists of suspects they want extradited from each other’s countries, there is expectation that Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi and Christian Michel might face Indian justice soon. The two countries agreed not to allow fugitives and criminals to escape the law and resolved to facilitate outstanding extradition requests.

Government sources said India handed over names of 57 suspects and UK gave a list of 17 they want extradited by India.

The joint statement said “the fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and bring to justice terrorists, terror organisations and networks, but should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues.

There should be no glorification of terrorists or efforts to make a distinction between good and bad terrorists. They agreed that South Asia should be stable, prosperous and free from terror and called on all countries to work towards that goal.” Pakistan was also called out for its failure to take action against the accused in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Sources said the specific issue of Mallya’s extradition had figured in the talks between officials of the two sides in the run-up to the meeting between Modi and May. Both Mallya and Modi, who have made the UK their home, are wanted by the ED in money laundering cases.

“The two leaders expressed their strong commitment to facilitate outstanding extradition requests from both sides. In this context, they directed that officials dealing with extradition matters from both sides should meet at the earliest to develop better understanding of each countries’ legal processes and requirements; share best practices, and identify the causes of delays and expedite pending requests,” the statement said.

This was May’s first bilateral visit outside the EU, largely intended to reaffirm UK’s continued international relevance post Brexit. For India, the visit served to take forward the decisions taken during Modi’s visit to the UK in 2015. India and UK have also started the initial talks on a free trade agreement that UK would only be able to negotiate after it completes its exit from the European Union.

An India-UK defence consultative group will meet on 15-16 November “to look at UK’s proposals for capability partnerships, through a range of activities including military to military cooperation, training, exchange of subject matter experts, research and technology linkages as well as defence manufacturing.” The first India-UK Energy Summit will also be held in early 2017.

The two sides agreed that the fourth phase of their joint UK-India Civil Nuclear Research Programme “will look at new technologies that contribute to enhancing nuclear safety, advanced materials for nuclear systems, waste management, and future civil nuclear energy systems.”

Christian Michel, a London-based consultant who has now made Dubai his home, is the key middleman in the VVIP chopper scandal. He allegedly handled the kickbacks worth around Rs 360 crore, using some of it to bribe officials in India.

Michel’s late father Wolfgang Richard Michel was known for extensive links in the Indian establishment and Congress party in the 1980s and 1990s as well as for brokering deals with several leaders like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

In media interviews since his name surfaced in the VVIP chopper scandal, Christian has claimed to be “a victim of political conspiracy”. Holding that he had never met any “Gandhi” in his life, he has stated that he was ready for questioning by the CBI and ED but would not come to India since he feared being arrested.

He had also claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to cut a marines-for-evidence-on-Sonia deal with his Italian counterpart Matteo Renzi in September 2015. But the NDA government strongly rejected the contention.