'Haneef case is a diplomatic success'
The Australian government's move to clear Mohamed Haneef of all charges of supporting terrorism is a "diplomatic success", say officials in the ministry of external affairs who have been batting for "fair and just treatment" of the India doctor.
"It's a diplomatic success. We wanted to ensure that Haneef got justice and was acquitted of terror charges if no evidence is found against him," official sources told IANS, as news came in that charges against the doctor had been dropped.
"We did all we could. The Indian High Commission sought consular access and assisted the family in getting legal assistance. At every stage, we expressed concerns that Haneef was treated justly and fairly," the source said.
Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed captured the mood aptly. "We are happy that an Indian citizen has been absolved of charges of supporting terrorism. The government has been extending all possible support to him," Ahamed told IANS.
India will now request the Australian government to grant Haneef a "regular visa", said Ahamed.
In fact, it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who defined the Indian response towards the initial disclosure about the alleged involvement of India-born Muslims in the foiled June 30 British bombings.
His confession that he had a "sleepless night" watching the trauma of families of the suspects on TV and his warning against any racial profiling was a clear message that New Delhi would ensure that the case was tried strictly on its merits and not on any extraneous grounds.
When an Australian police officer flew to India early on to ferret out Haneef's past and connections, Indian authorities made it clear they would not extend any cooperation unless his request came through "proper channels".
In Haneef's case, arrested July 2 in Brisbane, the government kept a close watch on the situation, but got serious only after his visa was revoked at the last moment July 16. Two days later, he was detained in solitary confinement in Brisbane on what looked like frivolous grounds.
After a fortnight, he was only charged with "recklessly" supporting terrorism for leaving the SIM card of his mobile with his Britain-based cousin Sabeel before coming to Australia.
South Block was quick to react, putting Australian authorities on notice that all efforts should be made to ensure "fair and just treatment" for Haneef.
The government conveyed its concerns to both the Australian High Commission here and in Canberra.
The Indian High Commission in Canberra also assisted the family of Haneef in arranging legal assistance for him.
On July 17, Australian High Commissioner John McCarthy was summoned by the external affairs ministry and was reminded again that New Delhi expected Canberra to ensure just treatment of Haneef while in detention.
All this put Australia on the defensive. Two days later, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer called External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and tried to explain Canberra's position. Mukherjee reiterated concerns of the Indian government and people that "Haneef be treated fairly and justly under Australian law".
The two ministers also agreed to conclude a mutual legal assistance treaty, which is considered a prelude to an extradition treaty.
All this while, the Indian High Commission in Canberra kept a close watch on all developments related to the Haneef case and offered help to his family whenever required.