Mera Bharat Mahan
In the good old days, it was said by a distinguished British politician and diplomat Sir Henry Wotton, “An Ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his own country.” Being a simple diplomat myself, I did not believe in this dictum rather chose to follow the contemporary advice of my senior and one of the finest diplomats of India T.N. Kaul who said, “Ambassadors need not lie.” In this context, how should we place and assess PM Narendra Modi, particularly in the current and on-going controversy about his utterings and pronouncements about some of the internal issues of India during his visits abroad? PM Narendra Modi, it seems, is following Sir Henry Wotton but with a small difference. Perhaps, he has replaced the last word of Henry Wotton’s quote “country” with “party”. No disrespect to PM Narendra Modi is intended. He is free to conduct himself as he deems fit. The opposition parties have been criticizing PM Modi for this. So far, successive Indian leaderships have been reticent and avoided to raise and discuss internal affairs of India while abroad. But PM Modi is pro-active and tends to speak at public meetings abroad as if he is addressing an election rally at home. It has become a matter of controversy.
This time things have gone a little too far. While speaking to Indians in China and South Korea during his recent visits, PM Modi remarked, “Indians were ashamed of being born in the country before his government came to power.” He said in Seoul, “There was a time when people used to say we don’t know what sins we have committed in our past life that we were born in Hindustan.” This, obviously, triggered outrage and invited angry reactions from political parties and cross sections of the society and rightly so. The BJP leadership appeared to defend their leader but their defense was weak. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on one of the TV channels something like that earlier Indian PMs were respected because of India but now India was respected because of its PM. The main opposition, Congress Party condemned PM Modi’s behaviour and said, “We have never seen such a low level and degraded politics in the country. We are really pained over the remarks as no leader in independent India has ever made such a statement.” Somebody wrote on Twitter, “Congratulations to all of us for electing a Prime Minister who was ashamed of his birth in India until we made him PM.” We may draw our own conclusions. The last Mughal King Bahadur Shah Zafar wrote a meaningful piece of poetry and said:
Zafar Admi usko na jaaniye ga;
wo ho kaisa hi sahib-e-fehmo zaka.
jise aish mein yaad-e-khuda na rahi;
jise taish mein khauf-e-khuda na raha.