Tory devotion to ‘expensive good friend’ Modi says a lot about needy post-Brexit Britain | Nick Cohen

Narendra Modi and the Hindutva proper are turning the world’s largest democracy into the world’s ugliest democracy. Muslims are denied the safety of full citizenship. The independence of the Indian courts, the civil service, the electoral system and the media has been horribly compromised because the Bharatiya Janata celebration creates, if not a one-party state, then no less than a state the place just one celebration can win.

Removed from criticising Modi, or sustaining a diplomatic distance, Britain’s Conservative authorities is endorsing Modi’s insurance policies and prejudices.

Indian opposition politicians have been within the UK for conferences organised by the Indian diaspora and conferences with politicians and lecturers. Not one consultant from our ruling celebration was among the many a whole bunch they met. Conservative ministers and backbenchers gave each look of taking a collective determination to not have interaction with any opponent of the Modi regime.

On 16 Could, there was a reception in parliament for Salman Kurshid, a former Indian cupboard minister, Pradyot Manikya, chair of India’s Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance, and different opposition figures anybody involved about India can be happy to interview. Conservative MPs mentioned they’d attend. However they by no means confirmed up. Labour politicians mentioned Priti Patel had ordered a boycott. I put the allegation to the Conservative MPs involved, however they didn’t reply to my emails.

She calls Modi “our expensive good friend” and praises his “dynamic management”. However perhaps the order got here from an operator under her pay grade. British-Indian activists mentioned a boycott didn’t must be instigated by anybody as grand as the house secretary. British BJP activists want merely inform a Conservative MP with a robust Indian vote in his or her constituency to steer clear and they’d obey.

Tellingly, not one of many British opponents of Modi I interviewed would go on the file. Even within the UK, crossing the BJP brings trolling from its activists and, in a single nasty case, calls for that the critic’s dad and mom be expelled from their temple.

Kurshid and Manikya usually are not well-known within the UK, however Rahul Gandhi has the glamour of royalty. Because the son of Rajiv and Sonia, grandson of Indira and great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, British politicians ought to wish to meet him for the sheer movie star worth. As soon as once more, not a single Conservative minister or MP was in parliament final week to greet one in all Modi’s most articulate opponents.

When Gandhi got here to London in 2018, the Conservative Associates of India mentioned it might host an occasion for him in parliament. In these days, Tories needed good relations with India however wouldn’t take sides in its political struggles. Or in order that they mentioned. Simply earlier than Gandhi was on account of converse, they cancelled the reception. Indian journalists reported that the BJP had made its unhappiness recognized. And in Tory circles, what the BJP desires, it will get.

For Conservatives who criticise the id politics of the left, this should be the second once they see the left’s face trying again at them within the mirror. Like “anti-imperialists” and Islamism, or the pro-Israeli proper and Zionism, the Conservative celebration is now so aligned with the BJP that it’s permitting probably the most oppressive variations of faith and ethnicity to outline the entire of a faith or ethnicity. Hinduism is not a non secular however a nationalist creed.

Indians are not the nation’s 1.4 billion inhabitants however Hindus and authorized minorities, whose place is assured, however not Muslims, who face spiritual assessments for migrants earlier than being assured of citizenship.

The secular beliefs of Twentieth-century India are too simply dismissed as a western imposition. They have been as a lot a response towards the west as western: particularly a response towards the British empire’s makes an attempt to divide and rule the subcontinent on the idea of ethnicity. Now divide and rule is again with a demonic power, with a big portion of scapegoating served on the facet.

The cancel tradition of sectarianism follows. British Conservative politicians are actually tacitly agreeing with the BJP that Hindu nationalism opponents usually are not “true” Indians or Hindus however are, within the intimidatory phrase of Boris Johnson’s allies, on the time of Brexit, “the enemy inside”.

There are respectable democratic causes for Tories to enchantment to Indian voters. The refugees from the African nationalist persecutions in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have been mannequin meritocrats. Idi Amin and his contemporaries stripped them of all the things within the Nineteen Seventies, however they fled to Britain and labored exhausting to make sure their kids may prosper.

Naturally, the Conservative celebration may enchantment for his or her help. Equally naturally, conservatism appeals to the more moderen inflow of high-caste Indian professionals. The notion that minorities have an obligation to vote for leftwing events is itself a species of racism. In pleased societies, your ethnic or spiritual id isn’t your future and it’s to the credit score of the Conservatives that Indian voters don’t suppose it’s the racist celebration of leftish nightmare.

If pleasing Indian voters means not being over-eager to confront BJP sympathisers of their midst, that’s democratic politics for you. It’s hardly as if anti-Hindu feeling on the left isn’t already driving them into Conservative arms. The despairing Labour MP Navendu Mishra wrote in 2021 of a “hierarchy of racism” within the Labour celebration and a few teams, most notably Hindus of Indian heritage, being “honest sport”.

After which there may be Brexit. There’s all the time Brexit. Determined for a commerce take care of India to point out it has not shoved its nation into an unmitigated financial and strategic failure, the Johnson administration will chew its tongue if silence will assist it safe a commerce take care of India.

Whether or not it’s staying silent out of necessity or selection is an open query. Throughout his tour, Gandhi spoke properly about how the BJP was “strangling” the independence of each potential centre of opposition. “There’s not a single establishment that isn’t underneath assault and it’s systematically performed. The judiciary, the press, the paperwork, the election fee… each single establishment is systematically being stuffed by individuals who have a specific ideology.”

With a couple of modifications to mirror native circumstances, that description would apply as properly to Boris Johnson’s Britain. The Tories usually are not in an alliance of electoral or diplomatic comfort. They’re in love.

Nick Cohen is an Observer columnist

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