Thursday 8 December 2016

Indian PM backs call for Britain to pay colonial damages

Josie Ensor in New Dehli

Published 25/07/2015 | 02:30

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the inauguration of the 46th session of Indian Labour Conference in New Delhi, India. Photo: Reuters
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the inauguration of the 46th session of Indian Labour Conference in New Delhi, India. Photo: Reuters

Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, has backed a politician's call for Britain to pay compensation for the damage it caused during colonial rule in India.

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Mr Modi made the remarks after an Indian opposition MP complained in a debate at the Oxford Union this month that British colonialism had harmed his country. "Britain's rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations of India," Shashi Tharoor, who once served as under-secretary-general of the United Nations, said.

"We paid for our own oppression. It's a bit rich to oppress, maim, kill, torture and repress and then celebrate democracy at the end of it."

Mr Tharoor, an MP for the Congress Party, said that India's share of the world economy dropped from 23pc when the British arrived, to 4pc when they left.

His comments struck a chord in India. A 15-minute video of the speech has been viewed nearly two million times on YouTube in a week.

Mr Modi, who leads the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said Mr Tharoor's speech "reflected the sentiments of patriotic Indians on the issue".

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

One columnist put his calculation of adequate reparations at $3 trillion (€2.75 trillion)

But Mr Tharoor suggested symbolic compensation of, "one pound a year for the next 200 years, after the last 200 years of Britain in India."

Mr Modi became prime minister last year in a landslide victory on the promise that he would invigorate the flagging economy. He is due to travel to Britain later this year.

India finally achieved independence from British rule in 1947 after a long-fought and often bloody campaign.

David Cameron was criticised during his last visit there for falling short of a full apology in comments he made about the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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