Finally, the meeting happened! As soon as the news of the UK’s decision to end the 10-year boycott came, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi did not lose much time to tweet: ‘God is Great’. Modi fans are elated, but I found the decision taken by the British government as ill-timed. And, sadly, human rights once again got defeated at the hands of trade.
After the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, Modi was isolated internationally, so much that the United States and the European Union even refused visa to him. British officials too began following a "working policy" of no contact with the Modi government because of their “concerns over what happened in Gujarat".
Considering the fact that Assembly Elections in Gujarat are just around the corner, the meeting between Modi and UK High Commissioner in India, James Bevan, will undoubtedly be used by Modi to try and clean the post-Godhra riots stain.
More importantly, as Modi is seen as one of the strongest contenders to be the next occupant of 7, Race Course Road, the UK handshake will be used by his supporters to elicit more support for him.
Modi’s international isolation has always been a major hurdle in his march to Delhi. Hence, UK’s decision to shake hands with him seems to be the beginning of change for the controversial leader and a big boost to his pan India political ambitions.
Britain’s announcement drew a lot of flak from many political parties in India, civil rights activists, Muslim organisations, as well as the UK media. Notably, three British citizens were also killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
However, speculations are doing the rounds that the United States and European countries may follow the UK’s path even as Britain tries hard to defend its move.
“This will allow us to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest and to explore opportunities for closer cooperation... The UK has a broad range of interests in Gujarat. We want to secure justice for the families of the British nationals who were killed in 2002...” Britain`s Minister of State of the Foreign Office Hugo Swire had said earlier this month.
But that seems paradoxical. On the one hand, the UK is engaging with Modi, and on the other hand, it seeks justice for its nationals killed in 2002. Modi’s aide, Maya Kodnani, was recently jailed for 28 years for her role in the Naroda Patiya riots case. Isn’t that an indication how the state officials used their powers to incite violence among people?
Consistent lobbying by prosperous Gujarati businessmen in the country and low economic growth may have pushed the United Kingdom to open its arms for Modi.
And at the end of the day, who cares for rights? Does US confront ‘wealthy’ China when it comes to its human rights record?
Clearly, the doublespeak of the Western countries is disparaging.