UAE envoy credits PM Modi for Christian Michel’s extradition

India News

UAE ambassador to India, Ahmed Al Banna, has said it was the personal touch between the leadership of New Delhi and Abu Dhabi that led to the extradition of Christian Michel.

Michel is the alleged middleman in the VVIP AgustaWestland chopper deal case.

“The very important strategic ties and the personal touch in the relationship — that sometimes makes things. They don’t happen in one year, happen in one day,” the UAE envoy said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Michel, 57, a British citizen, was brought to India in December from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the case.

There have been reports of a quid pro quo between India and UAE on the matter. It is also alleged that in March last year, India forcefully picked up and repatriated Princess Latifa, daughter of Dubai’s ruler and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, after an operation by the Coast Guard on the high seas.

India has denied of any knowledge of the case or its involvement in any such operation.

The UAE envoy also made a clear distinction between the bilateral relations of the two nations as compared to its ties with any other country, emphasising that one is not determined by the other.

This was in response to the question on Pakistan and the UAE signing a USD 3 billion bailout package and its impact on ties with India.

“Our relationship with India is not determined by our relationship with anybody else. India’s relationship with the UAE is also not determined by their relationship with anybody else. We evaluate our relationship on our dealings,” he said.

UAE and Pakistan have signed a bailout package to help Islamabad’s dwindling currency reserves. West Asian countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar have come to Islamabad’s rescue to avoid taking a loan from the IMF with its stringent conditions.

The envoy also touched upon the issue of upgradation of the bilateral air services agreement, which according to him have witnessed a few hiccups and lobbying from Indian carriers, but asserted that the ultimate goal was public benifit.

India and the UAE had reached an understanding during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to the country last month, said the envoy, expressing confidence over a renewed round of ‘negotiations’.

According to Al Banna, there are 1,068 flights a week between all Indian airports and UAE airports with more than 1,68,000 seats per week.

“The agreement says that if occupancy reaches 85 per cent then it’s time to revise the agreement. All UAE carriers have reached 100 per cent occupancy and Indian carriers over 90 per cent occupancy,” he stated.

Al Banna had called for the press conference to announce 2019 as the ‘Year of Tolerance’ for the UAE.

He said, “The diverse culture within the Indian population and to see the acceptance of that diversity within each state… somehow we are at the same level of what India is practising. We are trying to create a co-existence among cultures and teaching the younger generation the deep meaning of tolerance.

“Dialogue, creating platforms where there will be interaction on the concept of tolerance.”

In 2017, the ruler of Dubai named one of the main pedestrian bridges on the main highway of Dubai on 22nd International Day Of Tolerance as the ‘Bridge of Tolerance’.