The credits on the documentary, India: The Modi Question, appear to suggest that it is largely an outside production that was commissioned by BBC current affairs television, a BBC journalist with knowledge of how such programmes are made has told The Telegraph.
On the face of it, there is nothing to indicate a Pakistani or Muslim influence behind the commissioning of the programme though some critics have said that it set out from the start to do a “hatchet job” on Narendra Modi.
The Tory peer, Rami Ranger, former co-chairman of Conservative Friends of India, has challenged Tim Davies, BBC director-general, in a letter: “Kindly confirm if your Pakistani-origin staff were behind this nonsense.”
The BBC source said: “The key people were Richard Cookson, who produced and directed the series, and the executive producer, Mike Radford. They got a scoop when they got the internal foreign office report that was commissioned by Jack Straw. This scoop was not shared with the news sections of the BBC.”
Straw was Labour foreign secretary under Tony Blair when the Gujarat riots took place in 2002.
“He was the Labour MP for Blackburn, which has a large Muslim population, so he was under constituency pressure. But at the same time, as foreign secretary, he would have realised India was an important country,” the BBC source said.
Chris Ogden, listed as “series consultant”, has so far not responded to a query from this newspaper. He is “senior lecturer/ associate professor in Asian Security” at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
His university entry says: “He joined the University of St Andrews in 2010, and his research analyses the relationship between national identity, security and domestic politics in South Asia (primarily India) and East Asia (primarily China), as well as the rise of great powers, authoritarianism in global politics, and China’s coming world order.
“Chris is also concerned with the role of norms and identity in international relations, and the analytical uses of social psychology. He has previously taught at the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Durham, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 2018, Chris founded the European Scholars of South Asian International Relations (ESSAIR) research network.”
Ogden has written extensively on India and did an article, “Thinking big: Modi’s foreign policy priorities for India”, for The Foreign Policy Centre in January 2018.
There is nothing in the essentially academic article that Modi or his supporters would find objectionable.
“Making India one of a handful of the world’s great powers has been the first major strategic priority of the Modi regime,” the article begins.
The documentary’s producers, who would have helped decide who would be interviewed, are named as Lovejit Dhaliwal and Sadhana Subramaniam.
Dhaliwal, a “journalist/ producer”, who has not responded to an email from this newspaper, either, says about herself: “An award-winning documentary maker and investigative journalist with skills refined in a 20-year career at the BBC.
“Speaks three languages, has high degree of awareness of multicultural and multi-faith issues. Worked on the ground in India, Australia, the Netherlands as well as the UK. Has also worked as a producer in documentaries/ current affairs and a series producer for podcasts.”