After seeing the Julian Assange episode, one can feel that instead of either Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan, it is this blond-haired Australian Julian Assange who perfectly fits the tag of a Don with 'police of eleven nations' running behind him but he keeps on escaping with ease. But realistically speaking, the Assange episode has been an absorbing diplomatic, international legal and ideological battle.
When an individual becomes a centre of clash of nations
The case shows how an individual emerges into a key issue of conflicting national interests. Ecuador formally grants a political asylum to Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks that rocked the world, but Britain is not ready to hand him over and the man has continued to stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June to avoid being extradited to Sweden for a case related to alleged sexual assault. Threat by the British authorities to arrest Assange in the embassy saying the country does not recognise diplomatic law that has hit the diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Assange feared he would be finally handed over to the US from Sweden for the officials in Washington were annoyed after his WikiLeaks leaked confidential diplomatic cables from US embassies around the world. The US State Department, meanwhile, said it was not a party to the flare-up between Britain and Ecuador.
What made Assange and Ecuador come closer?
But what suddenly makes both Ecuador and Assange interested in each other? For Ecuador, a poor Latin American country, it is a golden opportunity for President Rafael Correa to aim a number of birds with one stone. For Assange, Correa's plans automatically facilitates his interests for both have a common enemy in the USA.
First, by welcoming Assange, a staunch anti-US individual, Ecuador will feel boosted in challenging the US hegemony. Assange, who felt the US was attacking him as a high-tech terrorist, and Correa, a US-educated economist who wants a sea-change in the existing international order led by the US, will team up to gain a moral advantage for the 'persecuted'. Although, economically, the country is set to witness a severe reverse.
Secondly, Correa has a great chance to emerge from the shadow of the enfeebled Fidel Castro of Cuba and ailing Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to lead the anti-US movement and improve his image ahead of the February elections. Correa even expelled the US Ambassador to Quito last year over an allegation the latter had levelled against Correa in a classified diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
Thirdly, by welcoming Assange, Correa tried to project his image as a man tolerant of free media. Ecuador is a country with pathetic standard of freedom of press and Correa has had conflicts with the private news bodies and shut down radio and TV stations.
Granting Assange an asylum means not only Correa has a chance to correct his international image for the former is considered by many as a champion of freedom of expression. Assange, for his part, might also find a less hostile ambiance in Ecuador and other like-minded countries in the region like Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba, as compared to Europe and America. Correa even made a sarcastic remark that Assange can stay in London 'indefinitely' for that was putting a big stress on UK's taxpayers in terms of maintaining a round-the-clock policing.
Assange might feel that the cable leaks and its influence on the intelligentsia of the Central and South American nations who feel the USA is a 'hypocrite regime', would make him a darling in that part of the world. The Union of South American Nations has backed Ecuador on the question of granting asylum to Assange. The journalist was reportedly given offer by a former Ecuadorian minister two years ago to set up his residence in that country but it did not materialise in the end.
The diplomatic tug-of-war between UK, Ecuador and Sweden
The British authorities are desperate to catch Assange, who faces extradition to Sweden over alleged sexual crime. They allegedly threatened to storm the Ecuadorian embassy in London and to arrest the Australian as a 1987 law empowered the police to do so but Ecuador hit back at such plan, saying it would violate international law. Correa later said that Great Britain gave up such plans later while the latter said it had never planned such action. The two governments were at loggerheads over Assange and an imminent solution looked far off unless of course, Assange and his Ecuadorian friends did something unusual to enable him to flee London and reach the safe shelters in South America. It is a very difficult challenge for Assange to flee London and would need some Hollywood-like adventurism to get himself out of trouble.