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Indian Students & Pak's Nawaz Sharif: How Invites to 2nd Wave of Virus from UK are Reaching South Asia

People travel through Waterloo station during rush our, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

People travel through Waterloo station during rush our, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

We may not need experts to warn us through all that jargon around curved paths, projections and modelling to figure that India faces renewed danger of another wave of the virus through passengers flying in from Britain and other Covid-high areas.

Sanjay Suri

A few alarm bells are ringing out virally ahead of winter. They are sounding out warnings of a new re-import of the virus into India. Amidst some hopeful signs of a flattening out of the sharp upward curve of the virus spread around India, these bells demand to be heard clearly in Delhi.

Hear the first bell this week from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. A study at the institute documents what was widely suspected, that travel from Dubai and the UK were the principal source of the spread of the virus across India earlier this year. A second chimes in from London, that spread of the virus is beginning to rise sharply now across Britain. Given those two, surely the Air India announcement that it is stepping up flights from the UK from October must sound like a third.

There’s another. The fourth echoing on from the second tells us that the virus spread in the UK is heaviest now among the young, particularly on university campuses. Many of these universities are considering limiting lessons, closing hostels, and encouraging students to go home for Christmas. Among these are thousands of Indian students who have only just been arriving in Britain at the start of their academic year. Already they are planning return in time through the Christmas holidays on the many new flights being opened up. Infection from the young to the old is a matter of moments.

We may not need experts to warn us through all that jargon around curved paths, projections and modelling to figure that India faces renewed danger of another wave of the virus through passengers flying in from Britain and other Covid-high areas. Not just on more Air India flights but on other carriers that have begun to fly between Britain and India following the Vande Bharat mission. British Airways, Virgin, Spice and Vistara among them.

A clear difference between the March import and the one looming now is that Indians have plenty of other Indians around to get infected from. The virus is now a grimly domestic product. But that makes this just the time to stop further potential – in fact likely and almost inevitable - import of the virus at a time when domestic tightening is showing results after weeks of efforts. There would seem little point in cleaning up the house with one hand and opening an inlet to welcome the muck back in with the other.

And now Nawaz Sharif

The Indian media in London has had a busy few years now at the Westminster magistrates court in London. Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, to a lesser extent the suspected Sanjeev Chawla who did get extradited. Coming up next, Sanjay Bhandari. But it could be the turn of the Pakistani media now to do duty at the Westminster courtrooms.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced new steps to bring former prime minister Nawaz Sharif back from London. Sharif was allowed to come to Britain for medical treatment in November last year after being arrested in Pakistan. A picture of Sharif having tea in a London restaurant and another of him walking on a street appear to have convinced the Pakistani government that his stated illness is fake.

A Pakistani minister has said now that moves are under way to bring Sharif back. If he does not return on his own that is, and that does not appear immediately likely. His party members say he remains very unwell and under treatment. A cup of tea somewhere and walking on a street are not in themselves evidence that nothing’s medically the matter. This clearly does not convince the Pakistani government.

The government is preparing the grounds to haul him back home in all the ways it can. A bunch of masked men turned up mysteriously outside the Sharif home in London to stage a self-videoed protest demanding his return to Pakistan. The Pakistani government is said to have written simultaneously to the UK government asking for his deportation. That path would appear blocked because Sharif is not in Britain illegally. That leaves extradition which surfaces always at the Westminster magistrates court.

A crucial difference for Pakistan is that it does not have an extradition treaty with Britain. But it can still move to seek extradition as a fellow Commonwealth country. Health is however a prime ground for refusal of return, both for the courts and for the government. Sharif’s supporters do believe that is bad enough for him not to return. They must also want to believe it’s not as bad as they think it is.


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