“Australia helped in Rajan’s arrest”

On the Indian side, officials are keen for more flexibility on sharing information, as the recent case of IS recruit Areeb Majeed required.

October 29, 2015 03:36 am | Updated March 24, 2016 09:41 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

The intelligence cooperation that led to the arrest of underworld don ‘Chhota Rajan’ is part of the “growing relationship” between India and Australia, says Australia’s top diplomat, Peter Varghese, adding that Australian law enforcement officials acted as soon as they received the “advice from Interpol” on Rajan aka Rajendra Nikhalje’s flight.

Confirming that Australian officials believed that Chhota Rajan operated from Australia for nearly seven years, Mr. Varghese, who is Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told The Hindu that several similar cases were being discussed between the two countries, including those on “trans-national crime and counter-terrorism”.

“It’s been growing cooperation, and it will continue to grow. We do have a framework for dealing with requests on mutual legal issues and extraditions. For the past five years, we have also had an AFP (Australian Federal Police) officer stationed in Delhi to coordinate that,” he told The Hindu during an exclusive interview in New Delhi.

News of the Chhota Rajan arrest came even as Australia’s Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Attorney General George Brandis arrived along with Mr. Varghese for the annual India-Australia consultations on counter-terrorism, cyber security and international crime cooperation. Mr. Varghese said discussions this year had focussed on countering the spread of the Islamic State.

According to the Foreign Secretary, Australia was particularly interested in India’s success with keeping the numbers of IS recruits low despite India having the world’s second largest Muslim population. In contrast to about 20 Indians having joined the terror group in Iraq and Syria, Australia, which has a population of just 23 million people, is estimated to have around 250 citizens fighting as a part of the IS.

“If you look at the numbers of those going out from India to join the IS, as far as we can see, they’re very small. I mean, there are more Australians fighting for IS than there are Indians fighting. Given the very large Muslim community here, we wanted to know what is India doing right that keeps those numbers so low and what can Australia learn from it,” Mr. Varghese said.

On the Indian side, officials are keen for more flexibility on sharing information, as the recent case of IS recruit Areeb Majeed required. Mr. Majeed, who allegedly returned to India after being shot fighting for IS is being investigated by the NIA, who found that some of the servers he sent emails through are based in Australia. According to officials, after meetings this week, Australian officials have agreed to consider the Indian request for IP addresses, and other email details.

While not wishing to comment on the specific case, Mr. Varghese told The Hindu, “Our cooperation on these and other issues is the best that it has ever been.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Turkey next month.

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