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April - May 2009
Mumbai Massacre and the Attitude of British Media and the Foreign Secretary - a defining moment in the history of Indo-British relations
Indian Forum on British Media (IFBM) held a seminar on the burning topic in Indo-British circles at the Radisson Portman Hotel, Baker Street London. The speakers on the panel were His honour Justice Mota Singh, Mr Sushanka Banerji, Mr Satjit Singh and Dr Rami Ranger MBE. The President Mr. Rajan Sehgal welcomed the members and explained the role of the Forum as a pressure group in London to monitor and scrutinise the British Media regarding their responses to events in India. The utterances of the Foreign Secretary Mr David Miliband in the wake of Mumbai Massacre has infuriated the Indian Media both in London and in New Delhi. The attitude of the British Media, on the other hand, has been responsible and sympathetic to the aggrieved party that is India.
Dr SP Sharma, one of the patrons of the Forum chaired the seminar and introduced the members of the panel. He also mentioned that Lord Dholakia, Prof Nat Puri, Lord Swraj Paul, Sir GK Noon, Baroness Usha Parashar and Baroness Sandip Verma have sent their apologies. Lord Dholakia particularly mentioned that his contribution in the House of Lords on this topic may be circulated to the members. Articles from the Sunday Times and the column of Rod Liddle was also distributed among the members.
Justice Mota Singh in his address described the role of free press in a secular society. In case of terrorist attack, democratic institutions face a dilemma. How far can they go in curbing freedom to gain security?
Dr Rami Ranger in his speech dealt on Indo-Pak relations. He emphasised that the comments of the foreign secretary in India linking terrorist attacks and the Kashmir issue ‘were irrelevant, unnecessary and unacceptable’ to India; and India’s foreign secretary rightly dismissed them as ‘not to be taken seriously’,
Mr Sushanka Banerji gave a detailed scenario of Indo-Pak relations and the role of taliban in supporting and encouraging terrorism in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. He emphasised that the Pakhtoons in NWFP do not have their own nationhood. To them the internaional boundaries between Pakistan and Afghanistan do not carry any importance. He pointed out that Britain and America hve been supporting Pakistan for the last many years. The recent comments of the British foreign secretary is the old British game of supporting Pakistan against India even when they fully know that Pakistan is in the wrong.
Mr Satjit Singh in his short speech pointed out that India was ill-prepared for such a terrorist attack. The British press gave fairly well-balanced coverage to the tragedy. The Foreign Secretary should have avoided giving controversial comments while he was on a visit to India to share the grief of people of India.
After a brief but heated question and answer session, the members were unanimous in condemning the comments of the foreign secretary Mr. David Miliband.