There are four good reasons for the PM to not go to the UK on 12 November: first, it is an insignificant country. Second, they just gave China’s Xi a royal welcome, and what they do for Modi will be limited in comparison. Third, the UK has consistently acted against Indian and Hindu interests. Four, there is the real danger of a humiliation and worse, as the UK is hostile territory.
First, the UK as a minor country in terms of foreign relations. Have you wondered why the UK is so late in the PM’s schedule of visits, even though the UK Prime Minister came to India earlier? That is because it is essentially a courtesy visit.
In Europe, the only country that really matters to India is Germany, and maybe to an extent France. Britain is an absolute has-been, which has no industry worth speaking of, and which survives only on financial services (mostly only because they still are benefiting from the $10 trillion they looted from India).
There is almost nothing that a prime-ministerial visit to Britain will accomplish in terms of trade and finance. As seen from Cameron’s begging-bowl visit to India earlier, the British need India more than vice versa. Given that India is now flavor-of-the-month to money-men, any investment that would want to come to India would come regardless of a Modi trip there: the choice of destinations is limited, and India has been deemed the most attractive destination for investment at the moment.
Modi’s foreign relations have followed a ‘concentric-circle’ metaphor, where there is a hierarchy. He started with neighbors such as Bhutan. The next circle is Southeast Asia, followed by East Asia, then the US and Europe, and West Asia.
All those important visits have happened already, and the UK visit is merely an afterthought. The upside from the visit is minimal in both trade and foreign relations terms. Instead, the PM should go to Indonesia, a nation that has much in common with India.
Second, Chinese strongman Xi Jinping was feted recently in an utter display of cravenness by the Brits. Steve Ballmer, former head of Microsoft, had a colorful metaphor “BOGU: bend over, grease up”. Britain stopped just short of that, or maybe it didn’t, I don’t know.
My original reaction at seeing their antics was that it was like an aging nautch girl in some sultan’s court, desperately gyrating her skinny hips as if her life depended on it, to catch the eye of the Great Man. In fact, her life probably did depend on it. And now, Britain’s life sort of depends on whether Xi, in his wisdom, tosses them a few bones, like a nuclear plant.
China needs Britain as a way of needling America. What better than to have America’s poodle enthusiastically kiss China’s bottom, its tongue hanging out, saliva dribbling out?
I am having fun mixing metaphors wildly, but the British pursuit of Chinese crumbs was a sight worth seeing. They gave it their all. My suspicion is that Xi will treat them like the International Condom, in Pak-Brit Tariq Ali’s picturesque phrase about how the US treats Pak: use and throw.
Now compare this to India. First of all, Modi doesn’t need any such geo-political leverage that Britain can provide. India’s interests do not coincide much with Britain’s. And if you read the tour itinerary, it is noticeably less pomp and circumstance than the Xi visit. In other words, the Xi visit was the vassal kowtowing to the Emperor, and the Modi visit is not. Why should India give the world a reason to compare India unflatteringly to China using this fact?
Third, the UK has a history of utter hostility towards India and Hindus. This goes back to their imperial disdain for India, needed to justify for themselves the absolute loot and ravaging of the country. They favored Pakistan during partition; most obviously, by illegally ceding Gilgit-Baltistan to Pak.
And the British Foreign Office, BBC, and entities like The Economist and The Guardian have consistently shown anti-India and especially anti-Hindu bias. This reached fever-pitch with the Modi victory in 2014.
In essence, Britain is umm… offended that India chose to kick them out. All those Blimps believe their own propaganda that they were a civilizing influence on India, forgetting that we were civilized millennia before, when they were swinging from trees. The more arch among them are miffed that India is no longer a cheap source of raw materials, and a dumping-ground for substandard products. They cleverly left Nehru in charge of India, assuming they could do ‘imperialism via remote control’ through him, probably with good reason.
Fourth, the very real possibility of humiliation and worse during the trip. The lefties have been gearing up to do some real damage. This bore first fruit in a message by a group called Awaaz Network that announced that Cambridge University had disinvited the PM. Then there was a tweet by the same group that showed the picture below:
This is a projection on UK’s Parliament House of a message that says: “Modi not welcome”, and an image of Modi brandishing a sword, and an Om deliberately distorted to look like a swastika with angular verticals and horizontals. The message is clear and is intended to bracket Modi with Hitler. This is an insult to Indians and to Hindus.
Awaaz is a group that has broad support from India’s leftists as well as various Abrahamic sponsors. In effect, they could be merely the public face of other, more shadowy and violent elements.
In my opinion, the fact that this demonization was permitted suggests collusion or at least tolerance by the British authorities. This is intended to send a message. There are several other strands to this game.
The Labor leader, Corbyn, had recently endorsed another move to condemn all Hindus by accusing them of casteism simply because they are Hindus. Then the Khalistani movement has suddenly gained momentum in the UK (and Canada and the US as well) and there is a strong possibility that this means the ISI is activating its sleeper cells.
Given the ease with which the Air India Kanishka aircraft was infiltrated with a bomb in Canada, and the recent incident of a Soviet aircraft that was probably loaded with a bomb in Egypt, it is clear that there is no such thing as fool-proof security in airports.
Britain has also had interesting cases where foreigners were poisoned with Polonium. A British soldier was hacked to death in broad daylight on a street by jihadis. Given all this, I doubt if Britain (or any other country) could absolutely guarantee the security of PM Modi (although I grant it cannot be guaranteed in India either).
I have been concerned that certain elements would want to induce riots in India through a spectacular act, let us call it Godhra 2.0. What better for them than to attack Prime Minister Modi in the UK?
Imagine if they succeed in assassinating him. The result would be that India would become a bloody mess, and there goes any chance of development. India would naturally revert to Congress rule, and the brief BJP interlude would be a memory, along with the dreams of a billion Indians.
Thus, the downside risk of a UK visit is high; and the upside is negligible. This is why I implore the PM to cancel his trip to the UK now, even at this late hour.
There is a plausible excuse: Awaaz, above, with its humiliating exercise, has indicated that there are concerns about the PM’s security in the UK. The fact that the UK government did not prevent this can be used as an excuse to cancel the trip. It’s not that there aren’t enough precedents: Dilma Roussef of Brazil canceled her US trip at the very last moment when it was evident that the Americans had spied on her.
What is the downside of cancellation? People told me on Twitter that it would be seen as giving in to the bigots. Ok, let them have the satisfaction. Others said that it would look like Modi is defeated by the Bihar debacle.
Well, we know he is made of sterner stuff. Yet others were horrified that fans who had arranged everything including a mega show would be disappointed. That is true, and I am sorry for them.
Others say that the UK government would be upset. In fact, they would be likely to appreciate the fact that Modi is not going to be pushed around (as they did when Mahathir Mohammed disciplined them). None of these is a strong case for exposing the PM to humiliation or assassination. Thus, I implore the government to cancel the UK trip, citing security concerns.
Rajeev Srinivasan is a writer and well-known columnist from India.