India's Modi praises MP for reparations speech in Britain

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tharoor's speech "reflected the feelings of patriotic Indians on the issue".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tharoor's speech "reflected the feelings of patriotic Indians on the issue".REUTERS

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday praised an opposition politician for saying "the right things at the right place" after the MP called for colonial ruler Britain to make reparations to India in a speech at Oxford University.

Shashi Tharoor, a lawmaker from the beleaguered Congress party, made an impassioned argument in favour of Britain providing India financial compensation for 200 years of colonial rule, becoming a hit on social media after the Oxford Union debating society posted his speech online last week.

"Tharoor's speech reflected the feelings of patriotic Indians on the issue and showed what impression one can leave with effective arguments by saying the right things at the right place," Modi said, at an event in New Delhi's parliament with Tharoor seated in the front row.

The 15-minute video of his speech to the Union has more than 1.2 million hits on YouTube and has been shared hundreds of times on Twitter and Facebook.

"India's share of the world economy when Britain arrived on its shores was 23 per cent. By the time the British left it was down to below 4 per cent," Tharoor said, in the May 28 debate.

"Why? Simply because India had been governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain's rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India," he said.

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

India gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Tharoor has often faced flak from Congress president Sonia Gandhi for praising Modi and his initiatives, and was removed as a party spokesman last October.

"I am very touched and grateful," the 59-year-old said, after the compliments on his oratory skills.