Modi praises opposition lawmaker

Mr Shashi Tharoor had, in a debate organised by the Oxford Union in May, said that Britain should make reparation to India and other former colonies for its decades of imperial rule.
Mr Shashi Tharoor had, in a debate organised by the Oxford Union in May, said that Britain should make reparation to India and other former colonies for its decades of imperial rule.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

He says Shashi Tharoor's speech calling for British apology reflects feelings of Indians

NEW DELHI • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised a speech by an Indian lawmaker that called for Britain to make reparation to India and other former colonies for its decades of imperial rule.

The comments of opposition lawmaker Shashi Tharoor have struck a chord in India. The 15-minute video of the speech has received over a million hits on YouTube since it was uploaded last week and has become the top trending topic on social media in India.

"Tharoor's speech reflected the feelings of patriotic Indians on the issue and showed what impression one can leave with effective arguments," Mr Modi said on Thursday.

In a debate organised by the Oxford Union in May, Mr Tharoor highlighted the economic toll of years of British colonial rule.

The former spokesman for the Congress party said Britain governed the country for its own benefit, and its rise for 200 years was financed by plundering India.

"India's share of the world economy when Britain came to our shores was 23 per cent. By the time the British left, it was down to less than 4 per cent. Why? Simply due to the fact India was governed for Britain's benefit," he said.

Mr Tharoor argued that Britain should make reparation to India for the losses it suffered.

"As far as I am concerned, the ability to acknowledge a wrong that has been done, to simply say sorry, will go a far, far, far longer way than some percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) in the form of aid," he said.

"What is required, it seems to me, is accepting the principle that reparation is owed."

Mr Tharoor added that Indians literally paid for their "own oppression", as by the end of the 19th century, they were the world's biggest purchasers of British goods and provided employment for highly paid civil servants.

India gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Mr Tharoor's speech stood in sharp contrast to one made in July 2005 by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the same institution. Mr Singh extolled British rule in India despite its economic impact.

Mr Modi did not say whether he backed the Indian lawmaker's demand for an apology. The British High Commission in New Delhi also declined to comment. The Indian Prime Minister is due to visit Britain later this year. The dates of the trip have yet to be finalised.

Many in India want Britain to make amends for the wrongs committed during its colonial rule.

Prime Minister David Cameron faced severe criticism during his last trip to India for not apologising for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, where hundreds of non-violent pro-independence protesters were shot dead at the behest of British Colonel Reginald Dyer.

Mr Cameron expressed regret for the massacre when he visited Amritsar in 2013 and laid a wreath at a memorial, but Indian critics said it was not enough.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline 'Modi praises opposition lawmaker'. Print Edition | Subscribe