New Delhi: The UAE ambassador to India, Ahmed Al Banna, asserted that a “personal touch” in bilateral ties facilitated the extradition of AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel, but he also added that the gulf country’s helping-hand to Pakistan to the tune of $3 billion had no bearing on its relationship with India.
At a press conference on Tuesday, January 29, Al Banna was asked how the extradition of Michel was accelerated when he had previously told Indian media persons that it would be a long-drawn process. “The very important strategic ties and the personal touch in the relationship… that sometimes makes things, that don’t happen in one year, happen in one day,” he replied.
Michel, 57, was brought to India in December following his extradition by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in connection with the chopper deal case.
He is one of the three middlemen – the two others Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa – being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate in the case. Michel has denied the charges.
The UAE envoy, in his remarks, asserted that India-UAE bilateral relations were at a “peak” with several high-level visits from both sides reflecting the closeness in ties.
Asked about Pakistan and the UAE signing a $3 billion bailout package and its impact on ties with India, Al Banna said: “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.”
Last week, UAE and Pakistan signed an agreement for a bailout package of $3 billion to shore-up Islamabad’s dwindling currency reserves. Pakistan has turned towards Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar to avoid taking a loan from the IMF with its stringent conditions.
On the upgradation of the bilateral air services agreement, he said there were “some hiccups” and lobbying from Indian carriers, but asserted that the ultimate goal was public benifit.
He said that the understanding reached during talks when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited the UAE last month was that there will be a new ground of negotiations “very soon”.
Asked why UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan had not visited India, the envoy said he was not in good health, but stressed that India inviting the crown prince to be chief guest in 2017 had shown the importance attached to ties.
Banna pointed out that the UAE President had declared 2019 as the “Year of Tolerance”. He noted that both – India with its diversity in religion and culture and UAE with around 200 nationalities “living in harmony” – have respect for common principles of tolerance and inclusivity.
(With PTI inputs)