Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Relief in Gujarat, Modi thanks China

A sense of relief swept over diamond traders in Gujarat on Wednesday after the Shenzhen court in China acquitted 11 of the 22 Indian diamond traders detained there on charges of smuggling. A majority of the accused were from the State.

Many traders felt the Indians had been awarded comparatively light sentences, considering that an Australian was sentenced to 14 years in jail.

Through Twitter, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi thanked the Chinese government for expediting the legal process. “Thankful to China for acting on my request of speeding the judicial process for 22 Indians imprisoned there for two years,” said Mr. Modi, who visited China last month for improving trade relations.

According to a State government spokesperson, Mr. Modi had, during his visit, communicated to the Chinese leadership the concern of the family members of the accused who were languishing in jail in a foreign land without any hope.

Keen to strengthen trade relations with India, and particularly Gujarat, the Chinese authorities had assured the Chief Minister the trial would be expedited, the spokesman said.

Even after his return here, Mr. Modi had asked the State government officials to follow up the matter through the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian embassy as he was quite concerned about the deteriorating health of the Indian accused in Chinese jail, and also arranged for providing them vegetarian food. Mr. Modi said he had taken up the case of the Indians with the Chinese authorities “purely on humanitarian grounds.”

Surat Diamond Association president Dinesh Navadia said the Shenzhen court verdict “by and large” was “good news” for Indian diamond traders and, more particularly, for those in Surat. He said the diamond traders and the family members of those held in China were feeling “highly concerned” about their fate, but “much of the tension has eased and we are all feeling comparatively relieved.”

The relatives of those who were sentenced to three to six years of imprisonment, however, claimed that those held were engaged in legal trading in diamonds but had been wrongly implicated on smuggling charges.

They wanted the State and the Central governments to take up the matter with the Chinese authorities.

An official spokesman of the State Congress, however, claimed that the trial was expedited and the accused were given comparatively lighter sentences thanks to the efforts of the government of India at the behest of Ahmed Patel, political adviser to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and Congress MP from Banaskantha Mukesh Gadhavi.

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