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Monday, February 18, 2013

David Cameron in India ~ will there be apology for Jalian Wallahbagh

Many years earlier, Tony Blair issued a statement on the Irish Potato Famine 150 years ago which claimed one million lives; a letter was read out from the Prime Minister in which he blamed "those who governed in London" at the time for the disaster. In May 2011  The Queen offered Ireland the nearest the royal family has ever come to an apology for Britain's actions in the tortured relations between the two countries, in a speech at a state banquet Dublin.  In July 1995  the Queen agreed, in effect, to apologise for colonial injustices suffered by the Maori people in New Zealand.

David William Donald Cameron, the Prime Minister of UK is India  leading a big business delegation, seeking a "special relationship" between the two countries, saying it is "about the future and not the past" for which sky is the limit. "I want Britain and India to have a special relationship...this is a relationship about the future, not the past," Cameron said in his first public engagement at Mumbai.
Describing India as one of the "great phenomena" of the century, Cameron, who is on a three-day visit to India, his second since assuming office in May 2010, said the enormous growth of the country is going to make it the third largest economy by 2030.

Britishers ruled India for some decades and the Nations have a ‘shared history’ ~ the main trouble is that both have a different perspective of the same history that happened.  There is more than the English language and Cricket that is being shared. To some followers of Indian history, it is one of humiliation: bloody massacres, mass arrests, the suppression of democratic political movements and the supplanting of its indigenous cultures to create a servile, anglicised elite, a creation of clerical force and taking out of wealth from India to their land.

There are reports in the media that the Prime Minister is said to be considering voicing Britain’s regret for the worst excesses of its empire rule during his three-day visit, for outrages like the 1919 Amritsar massacre, when thousands of  peacefully protesting Indians, including women and children, were shot dead by British troops.  There are Qs that the Nation Britain which sends its troops abroad to promote democracy once jailed Indians who politely demanded it.

Of course David Cameron or any of the present generation were never personally responsible for Amritsar massacre and sure none of the present day would approve of that killing.   But there are millions of Indians who had seen the departure of British raj and still vividly remember the cruelties of the Raj. 

The vestiges of colonial rule have deep scars with many acts committed by Britain the name of Empire.  There was the  Bengal famine during the Second World War, in which more than a million Indians were allowed to starve to death after their rice paddies were turned over to produce jute for sandbags.  To Britain, it was more of thriving trade and colonialism.  At this stage after centuries, any apology for the worst excesses may not really serve the purpose but still would be appreciable, if they come.   First Post reports that there could be more to the reported apologies. 

An apology for Jallianwallah Bagh and Bengal famine and Bhagat Singh is all well and good, but does it really matter? Will it make any real difference to deals for AugustaWestland helicopters?  Now it is more of commercial relations as there reportedly are more than 1.5 million Indian disapora in Britain and British Prime Minister David Cameron has arrived in Mumbai on a three-day trade-focussed visit clouded by a corruption scandal over British-made helicopters sold to New Delhi. Mr Cameron's trip comes amid a raging scandal over the procurement of 12 helicopters for use by VIPs in 2010, which were bought for nearly 4,000 crores from Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland. The British prime minister is likely to face further questions about the contract -- the helicopters are being manufactured in southwest Britain -- with the Indian government keen to be seen to be acting tough on a new graft scandal.

Indian investigators are traveling to Italy this week as part of an inquiry into the matter. Cameron, who is accompanied by a large business delegation, has targetted a doubling of trade with India from 11.5 billion pounds o rRs. 96,278 crore in 2010 to 23 billion pounds or Rs. 1,92,556 crore by the time he faces re-election in 2015. On his first trip to the country in 2010 after his election, Cameron pressed the case for the part-British Eurofighter jet, which was competing to win a $12 billion contract for 126 aircraft.

Is it a case of UK still gaining at the expense of India ? or is there some quid-pro-quo  ! The Prime Minister  found time for some Cricket Mumbai's famous Oval Maidan, a vast square where several games are played at once.  The cricket-loving Prime Minister wielded the bat against some ferocious deliveries from local youngsters who flock to the recreation ground in the centre of the city to play.

The most appreciable part of the tour was that of  Mr Cameron later laying a wreath at the memorial to the 16 Indian police officers who died in the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008. The Prime Minister bowed his head in respect before the memorial as an honour guard played the Last Post.

with regards – S. Sampathkumar
Photos courtesy :
18th Feb 2013

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