New Delhi: The extradition of Christian James Michel, the alleged middleman wanted by investigative agencies in connection with the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, was the culmination of many months of quiet, but intense diplomacy undertaken by India’s national security advisor Ajit Doval and India’s ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Suri.
People with knowledge of the developments did not say how many times Doval visited Abu Dhabi, or the number of times he worked the phone lines to present India’s case, or convince the UAE authorities to ensure that British national Michel was extradited to India. A government official, requesting anonymity, said that the extradition of a third-country national, under a bilateral treaty, also sets a precedence of sorts.
“It was many trips and many, many phone calls over the space of over a year," said one of the people cited above. “There was one specific intent—of securing the extradition," he added. Suri was also liaising with the UAE government on the matter and was in regular touch with all sections of the government in Abu Dhabi, and with the prosecution system in Dubai.
Sometime last week, the Indian government realised that they were within sniffing distance to finally secure Michel’s extradition, but four days of national holidays in the UAE, delayed the process. In between, Indian officials were wary that the case was slipping out of hands, but timely interventions by both Doval and Suri helped secure the legal process in India’s favour.
One thing that New Delhi was clear about was that the law should be followed in trying to secure Michel’s extradition, a second person, familiar with the matter, said. Being a British national, “it was clear that all legal options available to Michel should be open for him to exercise so that there was no legal loophole that could be exploited later," he added.
That PM Narendra Modi developed a rapport with the rulers of Abu Dhabi, particularly with the Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also helped. “The UAE has clearly taken the wider strategic relationship with India into focus and decided on developing a broad and deep strategic partnership with India," a third person said. “One of the consequences of this decision was to ensure that groups or individuals inimical to Indian interests find no place in the UAE."
India’s assistance in a matter seen as personally important to the rulers of Dubai helped generate goodwill, the third person added, without elaborating. According to news reports, in April, India was instrumental in ensuring the return of a member of the Dubai royal family who left the city without the knowledge of her family, and was found in a yacht off the west coast of India.