Britain’s somersault on Modi

Dileep Padgaonka

What on earth possessed the British government to reach out to Narendra Modi when it has been treating him as an outcaste since the 2002 communal violence? It had justified its policy to ostracize him on the grounds that he had looked the other way when innocents, most of them Muslims, including three British nationals of Indian-Muslim origin, were massacred by the hundreds. A major diplomatic row between the two countries had indeed taken place after the then High Commissioner of the UK in New Delhi issued a statement blaming the BJP-led coalition government for the killings.

That Modi had handsomely won elections in the state twice in succession left the British authorities unimpressed. They continued to harp on the gross violations of human rights under his dispensation and sneered at his admirers, including, especially, in Britain’s small but affluent Gujarati community, who pointed to his skills as an able administrator and a development Tsar beyond compare. Modi’s critics hailed this stand as a vindication of Britain’s abiding commitment to the rule of law.

The latest development has quite naturally nonplussed them. But they should have seen it coming. The statement of the minister in charge of India in the British Foreign Office, Hugo Swire, is significant in this regard. Reaching out to Modi, he said “will allow us to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest and to explore opportunities for closer cooperation, in line with the British government’s stated objective of improving bilateral relations with India.” On the 2002 riots, Swire said his government seeks justice for the families of the British nationals who were killed, and is therefore keen both ‘to support human rights and good governance.’

In off-the-record remarks to the media British officials spoke a less uplifting language. Britain, they said, had taken note of the ‘progress’ in the Gujarat riots cases. After this reverential salute to India’s judicial system, they went on to add that what attracted them to Gujarat were the ‘dynamic and thriving’ opportunities the state offered in business, science and education. Apart from Japan, China and South Korea, many western nations – Australia, Denmark, France and Switzerland – had engaged with Modi. Britain couldn’t afford to miss the bus.

These reasons are of course self-serving  though, yet again, they should not surprise anyone familiar with Britain’s record of double-speak. For one thing, while 200 people have been convicted by the lower courts for their criminal conduct during the 2002 riots, many more are yet to be brought to book. They include some individuals who formed part of Modi’s inner coterie. The chief minister himself is not entirely out of the woods. Add to this his persistent refusal to utter a word of remorse for the innocent lives lost both at Godhra station and in the post-Godhra period.

It is true that several western nations made a bee-line for Gujarat to explore business opportunities in the state. But here is the rub. More than any of them, it was Britain that claimed to be in the vanguard of the protests against the violation of human rights in 2002 and in the efforts to isolate the chief minister in the international community. It applauded the United States for black-listing Modi and for denying him a visa to visit that country. Now British officials are dropping stark hints that the US will follow in Britain’s footsteps and make their peace with Gujarat’s strong-man.

The question remains: why did Britain take so long to realise that it will have to do business with Modi? Why has it discarded the fig-leaf of its concern for human rights? Perhaps it has concluded that Modi is all set to win a third term in office. Perhaps it reckons that once he emerges triumphant again, he will be catapulted to the position of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in the next general elections. Perhaps, too, its decision to reach out to him is a signal that the Congress, in its reckoning, is fated to lose in these elections. You never can tell.

Some might be tempted to compare the British government’s decision to reach out to Modi to prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s infamous Munich Pact in 1938. The appeasement of Hitler, ostensibly to ensure that he would be content to subdue the Czechs and spare Europe a devastating war, came a cropper. But to describe Narendra Modi as a Hitler, or to argue that David Cameron has acted like Chamberlain, or to suggest that today’s Gujarat can even remotely be compared to Nazi Germany is not very enlightening. Such comparisons are worse than odious: they are misleading.

What however the changed stance of the British government does suggest is a certain continuity in its foreign policy approach. It is Adam Smith who summed it up in ‘The Wealth of Nations’: ‘To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers may at first sight appear as a project fit only for a nation of shop-keepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shop-keepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shop-keepers.”

In Narendra Modi Britain has finally acknowledged a soul-mate for, the people of Gujarat, too, are noted for their business flair. That the chief minister railed against ‘goras’ (whites) for wanting FDI in multi-brand detail only the other day is doubtless a trivial distraction in British eyes. Modi can afford to wear a condescending grin.

(Courtesy : 'TALKING TERMS' - blog; 'The Times of India")   

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features

Mahamed Ali Jinnah, founding father of Pakistan and responsible,although not solely for the partition of the undivided India, has engineered posthumously yet another break-up.

This time he's pushed the Bharatiya Janata Party into a partition mode. Jaswant Singh, a veteran BJP leader & one of the recent converts to the rebels camp,- the only one to be pampered with prestigious chairmanship of Parliament's Public Accoung Commitee (PAC) even after his rebellion, has added fuel to the dying ambers of Jinnah controversy that nearly burnt L K Advani's political career.

This time Jaswant has revisited partition history and Jinnah's 'innocent' role in it in his latest book. Not without disastarous consequences,though.

For a national party like the BJP what caught everyone by surprise was the incredible speed with which it stepped. This is especially more remarkable after a killing Lok Sabha polls.The party telephonically booted out Jaswant.

As he got bounced from the the party, Jaswant ruefully pondered over what he got as a reward for after serving it for more than 3 decades. His appreciation of Jinnah servedas the proverbial last straw), there was more in store for the Rajasthan leader. His book has been banned by the Gujarat Chief Minister Nanrendra Modi who thinks of himself as the self-appointed custodian of the image of Sardar Patel. The State Government claimed Singh's book tarnishes the image of the original Sardar of India. How could Modi and Advani half-mockingly hailed by many as the chhote sardars" tolerate a publication finding fault with the Iron Man of India.

Well, politics apart, Jinnah's Gujarat connection is quite known. His father Zinabhai/ઝીણાભાઈ (from whose name Mahmad Ali drew his last name 'Jinnah') belonged to Paneli in Kathiawad, few kms. away from birth place of Gandhi. Though born in Karachi, Mahmad Ali was well versed with his Pitrubhasha/ Fathertongue. Here is the sample of how good he was even at written Gujarati.

The page below (from iconic Gujaraty Monthly 'Visami Sadi', May, 1916) depicts answers of some simple questions in Mahmad Ali's own handwritings. Yes, he signed as માહમદ અલી ઝીણા / Maahmad Ali Zina in Gujarati. The column is titled 'Dil no ekrar' (hearty confession).















The page roughly translates as:

Admirable virtue of a Man : Independence

Admirable Virtue of a Woman : Loyality

Success in life, according to you : Securing love from people

Favourite recreation : Horse-riding

Favourite flower : Lily

Favourite writer: Shakespear

Favourite book: Monte cresto

Motto: Never get disppointed

The page can be found at http://www.gujarativisamisadi.com

(On home page Index, click Shirshak and in the long list of titles, click on the first Dil No Ekrar)

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features