The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Modi security cover leaks

London, March 26: The British Foreign Office here made it clear today that it had not leant either on Narendra Modi or on Manmohan Singh to persuade the chief minister of Gujarat to call off his proposed visit to London this weekend.

A spokeswoman told The Telegraph: 'The decision to call off the trip was a matter for himself.'

She could offer no reaction to the suggestion that Modi had called off his trip because the British government had indicated that it would be unable to provide security cover for the chief minister.

Asked for the British government's attitude to Modi, the spokeswoman said: 'The British government remains concerned about the situation in Gujarat. At the time of the violence in Gujarat in 2002, we condemned it. It is the responsibility of the Gujarat government to bring the perpetrators to justice. We are encouraged that the Indian government has said that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.'

Too much should not be read into such careful statements but it is fair to say the British government would not weep copious tears of sorrow if Modi were somehow to be edged out of office.

The problem for the British government, which has to deal with the aftermath of the killings of three of its own Muslim nationals in the communal carnage which followed the Godhra tragedy, is that Modi has even more support among rank and file Gujaratis in Britain than he has in his own state.

However, the campaign against Modi is also becoming much better organised. One wing of it is led by a feminist group called Awaaz, which dogged Modi's footsteps when he last came to Britain in 2003.

Another part is led by Yusuf Dawood, three of whose relatives, including his brother, Saeed, 41, were brutally butchered in the communal killings.

He told The Telegraph that he was less interested in the politics and more determined to secure 'justice for my brother'.

Today, Dawood was attending the wedding of another brother in Cambridge. 'It's a lovely sunny day and I am happy Modi is not here to spoil our harmony,' he said.

Despite Modi's absence in the UK, it wasn't quite Hamlet without the prince.

His critics staged a 'victory' rally in London and other cities.

In some ways, the problems for Modi are likely to get worse. Having forced him to call off his trip, the campaign is now likely to focus on seeking an economic boycott of Gujarat.

'How can Gujarat expect to attract inward investment and thrive as a laissez faire economy when their citizens are encouraged to riot, loot and murder and their chief minister is shunned by the international community' commented Dawood. 'Today's economic reality is that of globalisation, in the same way Modi is becoming a pariah, so is Gujarat.'

Dawood added: 'This could be the start of a sustained campaign against Gujarat.'

Britain has upwards of 300,000 Gujaratis, though not the 600,000 figure claimed by elders of what is a law abiding, mainly Hindu and economically flourishing community. A majority supports Modi partly for patriotic reasons and partly because people think he is good for business. Modi has somehow tapped into Gujarati sentiment and pride.

Even Gujaratis who came to Britain via East Africa are now starting to build ever closer links with Gujarat, for example by setting up businesses there and also buying second homes. It is unclear what their attitude to Modi would be if they started to suspect he was becoming a liability.

At the moment, there is no danger of that, said Vikas Pota, whose PR company, Saffron Chase, represents such clients as Labour Friends of India as well as the Gujarat and Bengal state governments.

He said such companies as Shell, British Gas and P&, which had invested in Gujarat, were well aware of the local situation in the state.

He added that Modi would tonight have attended a sell-out musical event, 'Gujarat:A celebration', at the Royal Festival Hall, as well as a Gujarat Business Dinner and a Gujarat Conclave, aimed at attracting further investment in support of his 'Vibrant Gujarat' programme.

'Narendra Modi has massive support among Gujaratis in Britain,' said Pota.

It is known that the British high commissioner in Gujarat, Sir Michael Arthur, has signalled his refusal to visit Gujarat so long as Modi remains chief minister.

However, there was never any realistic prospect that the British government would follow the US in denying Modi a visa. With only weeks to a general election, Tony Blair wants thousands of Modi's supporters in Britain ' they are concentrated in Harrow, Wembley and other parts of north-west London and pockets in Birmingham ' to vote, as before, for Labour.

Pota disclosed that one MP had approached him because he was worried that the British government's cool attitude towards Modi might rebound on how Gujaratis vote on polling day.

At the opposite end of the political spectrum, the protesters issued a statement: 'The promise of a mass demonstration against Modi, the 'Butcher of Gujarat' and architect of the 2002 genocide has forced the evil chief minister to cancel his infamous and opportunistic trip to London. A 'victory rally' is now planned.'

Email This Page