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Crude Miliband snubs India

Crude Miliband snubs India

Author: G Parthasarathy
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: January 22, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/151538/Crude-Miliband-snubs-India.html

Ever since Britain's young, inexperienced and immature Foreign Secretary David Miliband was seen by millions of Indian television -viewers patronisingly putting his arms around Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee - a person many years his senior in age, wisdom and experience - it was evident that his visit to India was heading to end in disaster. Even before Mr Miliband was born, Britain's then Prime Minister Harold Wilson learned the cost of offending India by indiscreet comments during the 1965 India-Pakistan conflict. An enraged Indira Gandhi made it a point to turn her back on Wilson and snub him at every international meet.

Things changed only when Edward Heath replaced Wilson and ensured that he did not repeat his predecessor's indiscretions during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. One of Mr Miliband's Labour Party predecessors, Mr Robin Cook, faced similar wrath by seeking to lecture India on Jammu & Kashmir. Mr Cook's indiscretions resulted in Queen Elizabeth's state visit to India in 1997 becoming an unmitigated disaster.

Since Mr Cook's indiscretions, Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Harold Brown have conducted relations with India in an astute manner, showing due understanding of Indian sensitivities. Indo-British relations have flowered, symbolising a new era in Britain's relations with its erstwhile 'jewel in the crown'. Mr Miliband's brazenness and indiscretions lead one to conclude that he perhaps mistakenly believes that "Britannia rules the waves" and that the sun is yet to set on the British Empire. Worse, Mr Miliband's impetuosity and arrogance are laced with a stark ignorance of developments in the sub-continent, which was evident in the many statements he brazenly made in India.

Rejecting India's call for extradition of those involved in the Mumbai carnage, Mr Miliband said that the opposition of Pakistan's judiciary to Gen Pervez Musharraf's excesses showed that the judiciary in Pakistan is vibrant and free. Is this really true Mr Miliband? Have you forgotten that ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and many of his colleagues have not been reinstated and that Chief Justice Hamid Dogar, who swore allegiance to Gen Musharraf's infamous 'Provisional Constitutional Order' and others like him control the judiciary in Pakistan? Can Justice Dogar, who faces serious charges of impropriety and remains in office thanks to the support of those in power, really act independently of the Army, which after all elevated him to the high office he holds?

Moreover, Mr Miliband, if Britain was prepared to wait for two decades to secure extradition and trial in a Scottish Court of Libyans involved in the Lockerbie bombing, why do you pontificate to India when it demands that those responsible for the Mumbai carnage should face trial in India? Have you forgotten that the US secured the extradition of Mir Aimal Kansi, the Pakistani accused of killing CIA agents in 1993, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, to face trial in the US? And that Kansi has since been tried, found guilty and executed in the US? Or do you believe that what is sauce for the Anglo-Saxon goose is not sauce for the Indian gander?

Mr Miliband should have been honest enough to acknowledge that the UK could not afford to have the ISI exposed because it needs the ISI's assistance to keep tabs on British nationals of Pakistani origin who develop jihadi tendencies after visiting Pakistan. But to have the audacity to question the validity of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement that it was just not possible for the attackers in the Mumbai carnage to have acquired the weapons, ammunition, equipment and extent of training in maritime and commando operations without any official agency in Pakistan being complicit, reflects unpardonable arrogance.

Worse still, to link violence perpetrated by groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba to the issue of Jammu & Kashmir as Mr Miliband has done, betrays ignorance of what the organisation really stands for. Does Mr Miliband not know that the LeT justifies the 9/11 attacks, proclaims that the entire sub-continent has to be made an Islamic emirate, and that it has carried out attacks all across India in the past? 10 Downing Street should be told that Mr Miliband is not welcome in India. In any case, with expectations of a Conservative Party victory in the next election in the UK, Mr Miliband will, doubtless, be relegated to the dustbin of history.

While Mr Miliband's transgressions can be dealt with, it is unfortunate that Mr Pranab Mukherjee muddied India's diplomatic waters by indicating that India had effected a substantive shift in its policy by agreeing to a 'fair trial' in Pakistan of the culprits involved in the 26/11 attack. His subsequent disclaimer has been brushed aside in Pakistan as having been issued because of domestic political criticism. It is now for the Prime Minister to clarify India's position on this crucial issue.

There should be no doubt that any investigative and judicial process in Pakistan will be a farce in which the ISI's involvement will be covered up. Even if persons like Zarar Shah in the LeT are brought to trial, the judicial process will be prolonged, because as in the case of Omar Syed Sheikh, convicted of murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl, who still lives in comfort, LeT leaders have enough material to expose the ISI's involvement in their activities.

India should not forget that the citizens of 14 other countries, including the United States and Israel, also perished in Mumbai. Mr Ed Royce, the ranking Republican Party member in the House Committee on Terrorism and Non-proliferation, has demanded that Pakistan should hand over the perpetrators of 26/11 for trial by "an international tribunal where they can face justice for crimes against humanity". Given Pakistan's insistence that it will not hand over the culprits to face trial in India, the time has come to support suggestions made Mr Royce and urge both the Obama Administration and the US Congress that that America should seek extradition of the perpetrators to face trial in US courts, as one is sure that there will be a cover-up in any investigative and judicial processes in Pakistan. Israel and others should be co-opted to join this effort.

Acquiescing to a trial in Pakistan because of the exertions of people like Mr Miliband will amount to a betrayal of the families of those who perished in the Mumbai carnage. It will only set the stage for more such terrorist attacks on our country.

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