The BBC has close ties with the establishment and promotes Britain’s foreign policy positions, notwithstanding its claims of being independent. Thus, it is clear that at least an influential section of the British establishment decided to focus on a controversial part of Modi’s record in public life.
What does the documentary claim?
The documentary emphasises a British Foreign Office report “marked as restricted” on the Gujarat riots. In the “Impact” programme, the BBC claimed that it had been “in possession” of this report for two decades and had used some parts of it earlier but it is only now that it decided to fully use it.
What does it mean?
- Generally “restricted” is a low-level security classification of official documents. All that it means is that it should not be publicly available because the disclosure of its contents may cause embarrassment to the government of the concerned country.
- Documents with restricted classification generally do not contain material which would damage the security of a state or imperil its interests in a major way.
- In view of the connections which the BBC has always had with the British establishment, it is not surprising that it had the Foreign Office report. Therefore, the questions which Indian policymakers have to address are: Why did the British establishment decide to make a documentary which would target the Modi government? Why did the BBC decide to release it at a time when the Modi government wishes to make a special mark through its G20 presidency? Why has the BBC wanted to draw international attention to it?
- The colonial attitudes of Britain has not taken into account that the Indian judicial process has fully exonerated Modi and has refused to accept the idea of a wider conspiracy behind the Gujarat riots.
How did the government respond?
- The government has used its powers to ensure that the documentary is not available in India on social media platforms. This is a normal bureaucratic and even political response in case it is feared that a document or documentary’s contents could disturb public order.
- But such responses should be arrived at after a full and careful consideration of the real threats to peace and public order. They should not be routine responses to controversial documents or documentaries even if their contents are offensive.
- While the social media organisations have complied with the order, it is possible that the courts may have to get involved if the government’s orders are challenged.
Identifying the real purpose –
- This documentary can in no way damage Modi or the BJP electorally. The British establishment and the BBC surely would be aware of this fact. The target, therefore, appears to be to injure Modi and the BJP’s international reputation.
- It could also be a signal to the aggressive tone that Indian diplomacy acquired in recent years on matters of concern to the Western world.
- India’s diplomatic tradition was to be firm on matters concerning its interests but only very occasionally resort to acerbic language. The greatest strategic challenge India faced in its seventy-five years of independence was in 1971. Even then its tone and use of words was calm and balanced. Courtesy, humility and firmness are signs of strength. That has also always been our cultural tradition.
It was always on the cards that the G20 presidency would lead to greater comprehensive scrutiny, including on issues of social peace. The way to respond to this scrutiny is by displaying assurance in our institutions and sober responses and not getting agitated by every critical documentary and statement. This, of course, does not mean that gratuitous insults to India or its leaders should be forgotten or forgiven. But paroxysms of pique serve little purpose.
Source – The Indian Express
QUESTION – A sober response is preferable over any knee-jerk reaction to insults of nation and its leaders by foreign state and state-affiliated sources. Discuss this issue with respect to the recent BBC propaganda documentary that has disregarded India and its state institutions through a ‘colonial mindset’.