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India-EU Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Brussels for the EU-India summit on March 30, which is being held after a long gap of four years that have also seen the suspension of talks on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA). According to officials, there are still some obstacles preventing the resumption of the India-EU FTA talks that were suspended in 2013 after 16 rounds of negotiations. Apart from other factors, the violence on minorities by the Modi allies – VHP and Bajrant Dal – is one of the reasons European countries are wary of. Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad, who along with 13 other top Christian leaders had met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last year, had said: “The indifference and total silence regarding the attacks on churches and the Christian community has now given way to a genuine concern.”
Secondly, the EU is learnt to have asked India to substantially bring down the “high” duties on automobiles as a pre-condition for resumption of the FTA negotiations. India’s import duty on cars ranges from 60-120 per cent as against the EU’s 10 per cent. In August 2015, India had deferred FTA talks saying it was “disappointed and concerned” over the EU imposing a ban on sale of around 700 pharma products clinically tested by GVK Biosciences. Both sides have since then held talks to separately resolve the GVK issue. Meanwhile, tensions over the pending murder case against Italian marines, which Italy has now taken to the International (Permanent) court of Arbitrage in the Hague, has also played a spoiler in the EU-India relationship. However, India’s exports to EU in 2014-15 had shrunk (-) 4.4 per cent year on year to $49.3 billion.
Since 26th May 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power after BJP won a landslide victory in national elections, Christian leaders have many a time complained of attacks on churches and individuals along with forced reconversion perpetrated by hard line Hindu groups. For months, the Modi government was silent, but in February 2015 at an event organized by the Christian community in New Delhi, he had stated: “His government will not allow any religious group, belonging to majority or minority to incite hatred against others, and that his government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith. Everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence.” But these noble sentiments have never gone beyond rhetoric or translated into action with the result that minorities continue groaning under brute Hindu majority rule.
Narendra Modi’s past, especially his association with fanatical Hindu organizations, will continue to haunt him wherever he goes. He is hated for his role during the period he was activist of RSS, and later as chief minister of Gujarat when more than 1500 Muslims were martyred during riots in the state in 2002. He was banned by the State Department for entering the US and revoked his visa in 2005 over his role in deadly riots in Gujarat. For the last 12 years, Canada had denied him visa, as Ottawa justified the ban by relying on a provision in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that bars human rights abusers. For more than twelve years, Narendra Modi was unwelcome in Canada and several other western countries including the US. However, principled stand was abandoned recently for the sake of economic interests and business considerations.
In view of India being plus billion market and large buyer of arms, the US and European countries give economic consideration to other moral considerations. They have to deal with India whether they like Modi or not. However, Modi is drawing flak in India for the plight of minorities and religious intolerance under his watch. Last year, emulating 41 novelists, writers and poets, 107 scientists had also protested against atrocities on minorities. Veteran Indian scientist P.M. Bhargava declared to return the awards he received from the government of India to protest against the government’s attack on rationalism, reasoning and science. Bhargava said he would return his Padma Bhushan, as Modi government was giving room for communalists and fringe groups to divide the country based on religion. Modi is being criticized also for changing trends in foreign policy vis-à-vis further strengthening of relations with Israel at the cost of traditional solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
Narendra Modi had visited UK from 14th to 17th November 2015. The Kashmiris had protested outside the Indian High Commission in London against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kashmiris in the UK had observed the black day and staged a protest outside the Indian High Commission against Modi’s UK visit. The demonstrators chanted slogans against illegal occupation of Kashmir by India. The demonstration was organized by Kashmiri political and human rights organizations in which Kashmiris from across the Britain and other European countries participated. The protesters had demanded of the United Nations to implement Security Council’s resolutions in regard to Kashmir. The UK must understand that Kashmir is undecided part of the 1947 partition agenda, and in view of UNSC resolutions, it is under obligation to pressurize India into implementing those resolutions.
Last year, an annual prayer breakfast in Washington President Barack Obama had said that he and First Lady Michelle Obama visited India and found it “an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity.” But he said that India was also “a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs. Such acts of intolerance, he said, “would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.” According to reports in American media, the Modi visit barely got notice in the US media. Even his meetings with Fortune 500 companies’ leaders and his speech at the UN did not create the presumed buzz. That American media was indifferent to Modi’s presence, as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani reportedly had got a lot more coverage in the US and world media.

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