October 23, 2012 · 0 Comments
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with the British High Commissioner James Bevan signifies a major shift in how economically declining western nations might now begin to handle their relations with a state of the country it intends to deepen its ties with. In deciding to re-engage with Modi, the “rank bad diplomatic practice” it followed in the past 10 years has gone through some serious correction.
To what extent other nations decide to “re-engage” with Gujarat remains to be seen. As Ashok Malik writes, the United States, which cancelled Modi’s visa in 2005, is looking for an “appropriate opportunity to pull itself out of the self-created problem”. As and when they do decide to re-engage, the challenge they will face is how to get out of this mess without losing face.
How exactly did this turnaround happen? Was it due, as some indicate, to a carefully strategised lobbying effort by PR firms allegedly hired by Modi or his government?
The answer can be found in Bevan’s clarification at the media briefing where he said the decision to re-engage with an increasingly important Indian state was their own and one guided by their interests.
Moreover, as Manoj Ladwa, the chair of the UK Labour Party Community Engagement & Empowerment Forum, writes, despite several government relations firms knocking on Modi’s door, no lobbyists were engaged nor were there any business pressures of any kind. It was a collective and, more importantly, voluntary effort by the Gujarati-British diaspora and British Parliamentarians such as Barry Gardiner, Lord Gulam Noon, Lord Adam Patel, Bob Blackman and Patricia Hewitt.
James Bevan highlighted three factors for this decision, primarily guided by the fact that in the 10 years since 2002, “quite a lot of important things have happened.”
Firstly, as far as justice for the 2002 riots is concerned, what guided Britain’s decision was the fact that a legal process had gone forward resulting in several convictions, including that of former BJP Minister Maya Kodnani. This reasoning lacks substance because the legal process and the justice delivery mechanisms largely depend on the judiciary of our country. Admittedly, the system is not robust and expedient, but the Modi government cannot dictate the judicial process which hands out convictions.
Secondly, the David Cameron government which got elected in 2010 took a decision to deepen its economic engagement with India. That was obvious given Britain’s gradual economic decline and Cameron’s aggressive plans to revive the British economy.
Closely tied to that was the third reason that a state of India – Gujarat – had grown in importance and become more prosperous and successful. And, in order to engage with Gujarat, UK had to engage with its democratically elected Chief Minister. The problem with this reasoning is that Modi has been the democratically elected Chief Minister of Gujarat – and a successful one at that – continuously since over 10 years.
Expectedly, the subtext of many questions put to the UK high commissioner was whether this decision to re-engage meant that the United Kingdom government changed its mind on Modi. Given that he could not have been seen as endorsing Modi lest that may be perceived as Britain’s attempt to influence the outcome in the upcoming elections, he took pains to clarify that this was not an endorsement of any individual.
Despite this attempt, however, the reason for Britain’s decision to re-engage can be deciphered by way of a deductive process. Had Gujarat not been an economically important state for British business and trade, would the UK have continued its boycott? Very likely, since there would be no “self-interest” guiding UK.
Why is Gujarat such an important state for Indian and global businesses and enterprise?
With the policy paralysis at the Centre and the red-tape problem which plagues most regions, Gujarat is increasingly seen as one of the more preferable places to invest and do business in. It is, indeed, true that Gujaratis have always had an entrepreneurial zest which will undoubtedly survive any government.
But what sceptics of Modi government who seek to undermine Modi’s contribution in the Gujarat growth story conveniently ignore is his government’s role in (a) encouraging this zest among more and more businesses; and (b) creating newer opportunities for investment and trade.
The biggest impediment to business and enterprise anywhere in the world is excessive governmental interference and/or governmental inaction. By reducing the amount of interference and increasing action in existing sectors and making the process visibly smoother, Modi has ensured that there is no reduction in growth in the existing sectors.
More importantly, he has ensured that the government machinery at his disposal creates an attractive environment for investment in sectors hitherto absent in Gujarat. How is this attractive environment created? By introducing business-friendly policies in such sectors. And, who devises these policies, thinks them through and put them in action? The cabinet, headed by Modi.
And anyone reasonably aware of the role Modi plays in Gujarat’s governance will know that he is the principal brain behind reviving growth and development in various sectors in the state. This combination, which Modi refers to as “minimum government, maximum governance” has made Gujarat an attractive destination for the UK as well.
Further, had UK not sensed, that the wind is blowing in Modi’s favour, would it have taken this step at the risk of displeasing several human rights organisations and a few European countries still boycotting Modi?
Even though these questions are hypothetical, the message is obvious. Modi is why Britain boycotted Gujarat for all these years. Modi is also why it has changed its mind.
By Web Editor