M D Nalapat
Assistance is coming from well-wishers within British establishment, mostly from Labour, which has office bearers sympathetic to separatism in Kashmir.
The well-funded ISI module in London is working on overdrive to ensure that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gets a stormy reception when he visits London next week for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. They are being assisted by well-wishers within the British establishment, mostly from the Labour Party, which has several office bearers sympathetic to separatism in Kashmir. Unlike in 2015, when Modi had the advantage of a strongly supportive British Prime Minister in David Cameron, and when problems in the implementation of measures such as GST and demonetisation were yet to take place, this time around there has been much greater resonance to criticism of the PM. The two main thrusts of such attacks are the delay in the dawn of a stable double digit growth in GDP and a rising perception of sectarianism and intolerance created by the verbal and sometimes physical abuses indulged in by the lunatic fringe within the saffron camp. The Prime Minister’s delay in condemning such elements has added fuel to the fire of negative perceptions being created about him in the UK.
Efforts are on to assemble both separately as well as jointly (depending on location) groups willing to hit the streets accusing the Government of India of discrimination against Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Dalits. Slogans are being tested out in the Pakistan High Commission, whose officials have spent the past three weeks fanning out across the UK to energise those who are looking to hold protests against Modi.
Interestingly, the friendly approach to pro-Khalistan elements in the form of liberal visas and other gestures by the NDA, perhaps on the prodding of the Akali Dal, or the reaching out in friendship to Kashmiri separatists by Mehbooba Mufti and the rest of the PDP has had the effect of increasing, rather than reducing their anti-India pitch. Within the UK over the past six years, several gurudwaras have been taken over by pro-Khalistan elements, several of whom regularly visit India while preventing Indian diplomats from entering gurudwaras newly controlled by them. Such activity has reached an uncomfortable level in the UK, which is why there is apprehension that several protests may get staged during Modi’s visit, dominating global headlines. The effort is to paint Modi as being the opposite of the “sabka sath sabka vikas” individual that he has shaped for himself. In particular, British politicians who are active in making claims that the NDA is hostile to the Dalit community have been preparing to raise such issues with the PM if given a chance.
However, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is expert in defeating ISI stratagems and it is expected that it will be ensured that the “no longer silent” majority of NRIs who are pro-Modi will mobilise in force and drown out the anti-Modi clamour in London. The next week will witness a showdown between these two groups, both active warriors in the battle of perceptions being waged around the personality and performance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.