Tuesday, October 23, 2012



The misgivings entertained till now in the West regarding the advisability of doing business as usual with  Shri Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, are showing signs of subsiding.

2.That is the message that comes out loud and clear from the visit of Mr.James Bevan, the British High Commissioner to India, to Gujarat on October 22,2012. Till now, the UK was following in the footsteps of other European Union countries in avoiding any governmental, including diplomatic, interaction with the Government of Gujarat in general and Shri Modi in particular. This policy of avoidance of interaction was a sequel to the widespread communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 and the deaths of three Muslims of British origin in the State during the riots. This policy of avoidance of Governmental interactions did not, however, stand in the way of British investors---of Gujarati as well as non-Gujarati origin---investing in Gujarat.

3. The decision to end the policy of avoidance of Governmental interactions was announced by Mr.Hugo Swire, a Minister in the British Foreign Office, some weeks ago. While announcing the decision, he said: “ This will allow us to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest in Gujarat. We want to secure justice for the families of the British nationals who were killed in 2002.” It was in pursuance of this announcement that Mr.Bevan visited Gujarat.

4. Among those he reportedly met during his visit were Shri Modi himself, Ms. Kamala Beniwal, the Governor of the State, and Mr.Arjun Modhvadia, the President of the State Congress. Reading between the lines of the statements and observations of Mr.Bevan, two significant points are evident.

5.Firstly, the UK continues to attach importance to the question of human rights in Gujarat. Secondly, it decided to resume interactions with Shri Modi and other members of the Gujarat Government because it sees no reason to blame Shri Modi personally for the violations in 2002. The British move is a clear indication that the British Government no longer feels that alleged sins of commission and omission of Shri Modi contributed to the massacre of the Muslims in 2002, as alleged by his detractors.

6. Sections of the Muslim community of sub-continental origin in the UK have strongly protested against the British decision. It is significant that the British High Commissioner went ahead with his visit to Gujarat despite these protests. This shows that the British Government took its decision after a careful consideration of its implications and there is little likelihood of its reversing the decision under pressure from its Muslim community.

7.Mr.Bevan has also been quoted as saying that the British Government took the decision on its own without prior consultation with the  Governments of other EU countries. There is an element of surprise that Mr.Bevan undertook the visit during the current election campaign in Gujarat, but he did not seem to be worried that this could be politically misinterpreted in India.

8.The only other EU country which has officially commented on the British decision is Germany. Its officials have been quoted as saying that Germany would wait till the elections to the Gujarat Assembly are over before examining the matter.

9.It is likely that after the State elections, other EU countries may follow the British example. The ultimate attitude of the US is not yet clear.

10. If the British decision is followed by other EU countries, it will pave the way for the end of the diplomatic avoidance of Shri Modi followed by the EU countries since 2002. If the US also joins, it could lead to a collateral strengthening of the Prime Ministerial claims of Shri Modi.

11. While Shri Modi has a very good record as the Chief Minister, what stands in the way of his prime ministerial aspirations is his image as non-secular among political elements outside Gujarat and the diplomatic avoidance by the Western countries.

12.With the seeming beginning of the end of the policy of diplomatic avoidance, only the mental reservations still in India outside Gujarat about his credentials as a pan-Indian and all-community leader will stand in the way of his aspirations. But if the BJP, under his leadership, fights the next elections to the Lok Sabha  unitedly and scores a significant victory, it may be difficult for other political formations in the NDA coalition to oppose the acceptance of Shri Modi as the post-2014 P.M. ( 23-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com  Twitter @SORBONNE75)



Dara said...

taniesFI simply fail to understand the hysteria that this issue has created in India. The UK is doing it for its own economic or political interests. Personally I think money talks and in this case it is doing it very well and eloquently. Why are we getting so hyper about it?

Doing business with Gujrat is also doing business with India is how I look at it.

DK Cooper

deebee said...

Sir, are these European countries seeing the leadership famine in Congress / UPA in general - given that most of them are under cloud of scams, and that the had-been-great-hope Rahul Gandhi turned out to be a dud?

Iti Neti said...

UK even had working relationship with Md. Gaddafi after Lockerbie bombing. I am not equating Gaddafi with Modi. I am just reminding author to not overemphasize the significance of any unavoidable circumstances....Indians should make up their own mind for their own interest irrespective of what other countries do or don't.

Suresh said...

All rulers of Middle East and some African and even Asian countries are not secularist and still UK USA and other countries keep relations with them. Till 1961 even USA was racist.

What They don't Want You to Know said...

Real politik at work, Mr raman. I expected no different and more real politik: no political party will give up chance 4 government because of Modi. Not even Germany! Don't forget Modi is no Hitler.