Hypocrisy of the British The Excelsior 01 Apr 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Hypocrisy of the British The Excelsior 01 Apr 2023

          The vandalizing of the Indian flag at its embassy in London by so-called Khalistan supporters, with no action by the police displays the anti-India sentiment within Britain’s government, which permit such incidents to regularly occur. It followed the BBC documentary on Gujrat with projected the Delhi dispensation in poor light. The British defended themselves by claiming ‘freedom of speech and expression’ as also the ‘BBC being an independent body’. 

The Rishi Sunak government had been insisting that the BBC is an independent organization with no links to the state, though its documentary on the Gujrat riots was based on unpublished foreign office papers. The leaking of official documents to the BBC reiterated that the media network is tasked to boost their foreign policy objectives, which currently is anti-India.

The Indian government objected as also did many members of the British parliament, aware that the release of the documentary could impact India-UK ties and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), currently under negotiation. In his meeting with the Indian High Commissioner, the British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, stated that the ‘BBC is independent in its output.’

All these claims were dumped into the dustbin by the Gary Linekar case. Gary Linekar, the most popular anchor on the BBC, tweeted on the Rishi Sunak government’s new immigration policy, ‘There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language, that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.’ Post the tweet, Gary was removed from being the host of BBC’s ‘match of the day’ show, which is amongst its most popular programs. The excuse was that he compared UK to Nazi Germany. The reality was different.

The tweet caused an embarrassment to the government and was being exploited by political opponents. The BBC initially stood its ground and refused to reinstate Gary announcing it will not do so ‘until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media.’ This highlighted that the so-called defenders of free speech, BBC and the British government, insist on freedom of speech for the rest of the world and not themselves. The BBC was compelled to reinstate Gary Linekar on account of boycott by other anchors and criticism from the national audience, which saw through its claims of impartiality.

Since 2003 the BBC has had a tie-up with al Jazeera, the Qatari channel which promotes strategic interests of the Qatari royal family and is profoundly anti-India. As per the agreement both channels have reciprocal access to news material and hence in many ways their reporting is similar, largely anti-India. In 2019, the government of India demanded that both al Jazeera and BBC forward raw footage of protests in Kashmir which they claimed had occurred post the abrogation of article 370. Nothing was forthcoming.

The BBC had launched an Arabic channel, BBC Arabic television in 1994, winding it up in 1996 after its main backers, Saudi Arabia, withdrew support because it broadcast a documentary criticizing the Saudi royal family. The fallout was the creation of al Jazeera, run by ex-staffers of BBC Arabic television, and its tie-up with the BBC.

The BBC being an organ of the state was also evident when it announced that it would not broadcast Sir David Attenborough’s final episode on British wildlife fearing political embarrassment. The episode contained degradation of wildlife due to current farming techniques and possible solutions, none of which could be easily implemented. The BBC was criticized for bowing down to government pressure. Interestingly, the Attenborough documentary was commissioned by the BBC itself.

The BBC defended its stand by claiming that it had sanctioned five episodes and not the one under question. Labour leader Tom Watson stated, ‘When the BBC censors a respected and reasonable person like David Attenborough there’s something going wrong with its leadership.’

The BBC had stood its ground against the Gujrat documentary because it was the Indian government involved but surrendered meekly to its own government’s pressure on the Linekar case and Attenborough documentary. The BBC’s anti-India outlook, in recent years, matches a similar bias within the British government, as the incident at the Indian embassy in London displayed.

Whenever the BBC refers to the Mumbai attacks, it terms the terrorists as ‘gun men.’ It describes Kashmir as ‘India administered territory,’ and has on occasions displayed a wrong map of India. It has always projected sympathy to secessionist elements within India, whether it be Punjab or the North East.

On February 25, Ravinder Singh Robin, a journalist who regularly contributes to BBC World Services stated in a video, ‘please don’t term the deterioration of the law-and-order situation in Punjab as a separatist movement.’ He has stated this on multiple occasions on BBC. This outlook is similar to that of the British government, which is why the Khalistan movement is enhancing its roots on their soil.

The Indian action of removing security around the British High Commission in Delhi and the residence of their High Commissioner is the right step. It sent a message that India can and will respond in kind. The impact was immediate. The London police increased security around the Indian High Commission expecting more protests in coming days. However, unless they act against the protestors India must stand its ground.

Simultaneously, the UK seeks an FTA with India. As per the IMF the British economy will sink 0.6% in 2023-24 and possibly recover 0.4% in 2024-25. Therefore, it urgently needs to diversify its trade and economic relationship with a galloping India to overcome its own economic downslide. On one hand it backs increased interaction with India, while on the other it projects the current Indian dispensation is poor light, while displaying sympathy for Pakistan and secessionist movements within India.

It takes two hands to clap a fact which India must exploit. India should insist on Britain cracking down on anti-India movements within their country as a pre-requisite. Simultaneously, Indian parliament must discuss Britain’s immigration policies similar to them discussing Indian laws and security issues.