Sunday, March 21, 2010

An Indian complaint

Vir Sanghvi in the Hindustan Times:

Here is a hypothetical situation. Imagine that the Indian police arrest a man who had advance knowledge of the 9/11 plot. Not only did he work with the conspirators but he had also been sent to New York several times to conduct reconnaissance so that the terrorists would be able to successfully execute their assault.

Naturally, the US would want to extradite this person so that he could be tried in a US court for his involvement in one of the worst acts of terrorism in recent times. Assume now that India not only refused to discuss the extradition but also denied the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) any access to the suspect. “We will tell you what he is saying,” the Central Bureau of Investigation would insist. “There is no way you can interrogate him face to face.”

Take our scenario further. Imagine now that even as the US seethes at being denied access to this important link in the 9/11 case, India announces that it has done a deal with the man. He will plead guilty to all charges. So, there is no question of the death penalty under our law. Nor is there any prospect of his being prosecuted under American law. Part of the deal is that we have assured the suspect that we will never extradite him. As for the sentence, that is still to be worked out but it will be decided on the basis of the deal that we have made with the terrorist.

How do you suppose America will react?

The answers are obvious. There would be a diplomatic incident. The secretary of state would call our home minister (or perhaps our prime minister) to insist that the terrorist is handed over to the FBI. India would be accused of betraying the war on terror. How can we prosecute the man in our country, we would be asked, when the crime he was involved in occurred in America? There would be threats galore. We would be warned of a suspension of aid. Summits would be cancelled and so on.

I have spent some time outlining this scenario because it closely parallels something that has actually happened: except that in this case, the terrorist was involved in 26/11, not 9/11. And it is not India that is refusing to extradite him but America that has told us to go take a flying jump.