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Mar 09

Akmal Shaikh, Britain’s Double Standards and Lessons for India

The execution of a Britain in China for Drug Smuggling raises some interesting questions – including Britain’s integrity and significant lessons for Indian politicians.

Recently the news was packed with what they called the execution by the Chinese Government of a ‘mentally ill’ Britain. He was caught carrying 4 kgs of Heroin in China. His family (surprise surprise!) said that he was mentally ill. And then human rights groups, which are always more than ready to jump in on denouncing China, picked it up.

Much has been written about this story, with some citing it as yet another example of China’s ‘increased confidence’ and ‘muscle flexing’; and the more paranoid even saying that “the Chinese government didn’t need to know” that Akmal Shaikh was mentally ill, and only used him as a scapegoat to “keep the memory of those outrages (the Opium Wars) afresh”. That article even goes on to say that it arrested four more drug smugglers “to show that it had no regrets”! Maybe the author (Isaac Stone Fish) desired that since China has sentenced one drug smuggler to death, it should stop arresting others!

After defeating China in the Opium Wars, Britain forced China to lift the ban on the import of Opium, which was until then illegal in China; but legal in Britain. This event is still taught to every Chinese schoolchild as a reminder of China’s ‘humiliation’ at the hands of western colonial powers.

Double Standards

While some might argue that the death penalty is immoral, a closer look reveals the British Government’s double standards over human rights issues. For example, it refrained from criticizing the US over the death penalty. It should be noted that the US is still one of the few countries left to execute mentally ill persons. It abolished the execution of children as early as 2005. Then there is the case of Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, also British, who was held in illegal US detention centers and allegedly tortured for more than two years before being released without charge.

Gary McKinnon, a British citizen is accused of hacking into the Pentagon’s computers. Now what is interesting is that he is autistic. His mother says that according to medical reports by top experts in the world, Gary will undoubtedly commit suicide if extradited.

Lessons for India

This incident might hold some valuable lessons for the Indian government, which very often succumbs to the demands of Western countries on many issues. It agreed to ‘slightly amend’ visa rules (after first tightening them) possibly because the US and UK government protested. More recently, it largely kept quiet after India was snubbed at the London Conference on Afghanistan due to a difference of opinion with western countries. Contrast this with China, whose vice Foreign minister called the US envoy on climate change  ‘extremely irresponsible or lacking in common sense’.  China uses such strong language quite often. By contrast, such statements are literally heresy for Indian officials, except maybe when directed against Pakistan.

- Maitreya Bhakal

India’s China Blog – http://indiaschinablog.blogspot.com/

(originally posted at http://indiaschinablog.blogspot.com/2010/02/akmal-shaikh-britains-double-standards.html)


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