New Delhi, Oct. 28: Many nations that had sent diplomats to Narendra Modi’s Delhi rally last month have decided against any repeat ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections because of the Patna blasts.
Diplomats from eight of the 36 missions from across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas that sent representatives to the Delhi rally told The Telegraph their embassies have decided that attending such political rallies would expose officials to unnecessary risks.
The diplomats also mentioned conversations with colleagues from several other nations — including those that did not participate in the Delhi rally but are being lobbied aggressively by the BJP’s overseas cell for future public programmes — that suggest wider concerns.
“What I’m hearing suggests that Sunday’s blasts have shaken everyone in the diplomatic community here who was considering attending such rallies in the coming months,” said an African diplomat who sat through Modi’s rally in northwest Delhi on September 29.
The decisions were taken and communicated to officials within hours of the blasts, said the diplomats who all spoke on the condition of anonymity, and requested their nations not be named because public statements could be construed as comments on the internal affairs of India.
For Modi, diplomats — including a handful of ambassadors — from 36 nations attending the Delhi rally was a publicity coup that echoed well beyond India’s borders in countries where the BJP leader is still widely held responsible for the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots. The US, which has not granted him a visa since the riots, and the UK, which re-established contact with the Gujarat chief minister only last year, did not send representatives to the Delhi gathering.
But China, Japan, Russia and multiple African nations have increasingly bonded with Modi over the past few years, inviting him to visit, and inking multi-million dollar trade and investment agreements with Gujarat. The party’s overseas cell, headed by former Delhi MLA Vijay Jolly, regularly networks with missions here seeking deeper collaboration.
But the images from Patna have left some diplomats feeling vulnerable. “Across the world, for those interested in causing mayhem, foreign nationals are good targets because it ensures they’re seen globally,” a diplomat from a northern European nation said. “Now that we’ve seen the risks after Patna, I don’t see why we would set ourselves up for something horrible.”
Their reluctance to join Modi’s public rallies after the Patna blasts don’t take away the diplomatic gains the Gujarat chief minister has made in recent years.
Bangladesh’s high commissioner Tariq Karim met Modi in Gandhinagar in July, and Pakistan is discussing energy cooperation with the Gujarat government.
But the blasts also serve as a fresh reminder of the deep divisions that Modi appears to evoke, and refreshes concerns that India under him could turn unstable as a destination for investments, said a European ambassador who did not send a representative to the Delhi rally.
“We do business with the Government of India, not any party, so we’ll naturally work with whoever comes to power,” the ambassador said. “But if Sunday’s bombs are a signal of things to come, that can’t be good, can it be?”