British PM offers to cooperate with India on graft probe

Updated 19 February 2013
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British PM offers to cooperate with India on graft probe

NEW DELHI: British Prime Minister David Cameron promised full cooperation yesterday with an Indian investigation into alleged corruption in a helicopter deal, an issue which has clouded his trip to New Delhi.
Cameron arrived in India on Monday with what he called the biggest-ever British overseas business delegation, pushing for better access to the booming market of 1.2 billion people and greater trade.
While keen to persuade India of the merits of the part-British Eurofighter jets, he has been dogged by another aviation deal involving the Anglo-Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland.
Italian authorities arrested the boss of AgustaWestland’s parent company Finmeccanica last week during an investigation into bribes allegedly paid to secure the $750-million Indian government contract in 2010.
Press reports indicate one of the accused middlemen is based in London, while the helicopters are being made in southwest England.
“We will respond to any request for information. I am glad that the Italian authorities are looking into this issue in detail,” Cameron told a press conference with Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.
Singh, eager to show his graft-plagued government taking action ahead of national elections next year, said he had conveyed “our very serious concerns regarding allegations that unethical means were used” to secure the deal.
“I have sought the full assistance of the UK in this case,” he added.
The scandal has been an unwanted distraction for Cameron who is eager to forge a new partnership with Britain’s former colony, believing their historical links should provide a foundation for a closer partnership.
Like other Western leaders who arrive eyeing the country’s enviable economic growth rates, he is keen for British companies to benefit from India’s vast investment in infrastructure, health, energy and defense.
Executives in his delegation from the worlds of banking, insurance and retail have also been encouraged by the Indian government’s moves late last year to drop some barriers to foreign investors.
Cameron has targeted a doubling of annual bilateral trade with India, from 11.5 billion pounds ($17.8 billion) in 2010 to 23 billion pounds by the time he faces re-election in 2015.
“Britain wants to be your partner of choice,” Cameron said during a factory visit in commercial capital Mumbai on Monday.
Harsh Pant, a expert on Indian foreign relations at King’s College university in London, said that Britain and India were bound by their history and large British-Indian population, but that New Delhi was destined to remain aloof.
“India has never been about close relationships with any country,” he said, referring to its embrace of the non-aligned movement. “They will never be the sort of partners that some countries expect them to be or want them to be.” In moves designed to appeal to his hosts, Cameron has announced a new same-day visa service for Indian business people and stressed that British universities remain welcoming places for Indian students.
He has played cricket to highlight the countries’ common love of the game and joked and spoke with 400 students and Bollywood mega-star Aamir Khan on Tuesday at a New Delhi girls’ college.
Singh thanked Cameron for his “strong personal commitment to India” — this is his second visit since becoming prime minister in 2010 — and said he had invited increased British investments in India.

“We expressed satisfaction with progress in our economic engagement, while stressing the need to do more to take the relationship to a new level,” he added.
In 2010, Cameron had given heavy backing during talks with Indian leaders to the part-British Eurofighter consortium, which was competing for a $12 billion contract to sell 126 fighter jets to the air force.
Last January, India chose France’s Dassault Aviation for exclusive negotiations but the deal has still not been signed.
The first allegations of wrongdoing in the AgustaWestland deal emerged last year, but India’s government has said it was unable to gain information from Italian or British governments about the investigation.


Karadzic insists he sought ‘peace’ in Balkans war

Updated 53 min 21 sec ago
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Karadzic insists he sought ‘peace’ in Balkans war

  • The once-feared Bosnian Serb leader is urging the judges to throw out his 2016 conviction for war crimes and genocide.
  • He was found guilty of 10 charges, including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre — Europe’s worst bloodshed since World War II.

THE HAGUE: Convicted criminal Radovan Karadzic on Tuesday accused Bosnian Muslims of “declaring war” on Serbs, insisting at his appeal before a UN tribunal that he had worked for peace in the Balkans.
The prosecution’s case against him was “upside down, the wrong way up,” Karadzic insisted, on the second and final day of his appeal in The Hague.
The once-feared Bosnian Serb leader is urging the judges to throw out his 2016 conviction for war crimes and genocide, and either acquit him or order a new trial.
“Nothing in these proceedings that was alleged is true,” he said in an animated personal address to the judges, saying it meant “that the conflict between us will persist.”
In March 2016, Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in jail for his role in the bloodshed during the Bosnian war which left 100,000 people dead and 2.2 million others homeless, amid the ethnic conflict which tore the former Yugoslavia apart.
He was found guilty of 10 charges, including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre — Europe’s worst bloodshed since World War II, when some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were separated from their families, shot and killed, their bodies dumped in mass graves.
Karadzic was also convicted of orchestrating the 44-month siege of Sarajevo in which some 10,000 people died under relentless sniping and shelling.
But Karadzic, 72, insisted the city had been a stronghold of the Bosnian Muslim army “whose aim was to take over all of the city” and expel the Bosnian Serbs.
“We were the ones on whom war was declared, defense is legitimate,” he added.
“We never had anything against Muslims, we considered them Serbs with a Muslim religion,” he said, adding: “Serbs, Muslims, Croats, we are one people, we have one identity.”
“Our main wish was for the Muslims to remain with us in Yugoslavia,” he said, adding it was the Bosnian Muslims who wanted to secede.
“How is it possible not to see that Serbs in Sarajevo and in Bosnia-Hercegovina were in favor of peace? They made desperate concessions,” he said.
The former strongman has lodged 50 grounds of appeal after he was convicted by trial judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
But prosecutors insist Karadzic “abused his immense power to spill the blood of innocent civilians,” and urged the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) — which has taken over from the ICTY — to impose “the highest possible sentence, a life sentence.”
The prosecution is also urging judges to reverse his acquittal on a second charge of genocide in Bosnian municipalities and find him guilty instead.
“Karadzic and his associates knew they would need to spill rivers of blood to carve out the ethnically homogenous territory and they sought and they embraced this bloody path,” said prosecutor Katrina Gustafson.
He “threatened non-Serbs with extinction and annihilation ... and incited inter-ethnic fear and hatred,” she said.
“He set the stage for a criminal campaign of a genocidal nature, aimed at destroying the targeted community,” Gustafson added. Once it got underway, “Karadzic oversaw it from the apex of power.”
Presiding judge Theodor Meron closed the hearing saying he and the four other judges would hand down their ruling “in due course.”
After years on the run, Karadzic was caught in 2008 on a Belgrade bus, disguised as a faith healer. He was handed over to The Hague and his trial opened in October 2009, lasting until October 2014.
He is the highest-ranked person to be convicted and sentenced at the ICTY, after Serbian ex-president Slobodan Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial.
Documents released Tuesday showed the court has freed on health grounds Bosnian Croat policeman Berislav Pusic, who was a member of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Croat state of Herceg-Bosna.
Pusic’s 10-year sentence imposed for atrocities against Bosnian Muslims was upheld on appeal in December, but Meron approved his release after serving almost two-thirds of his term, saying “his health condition is a factor generally weighing in favor of his early release.”