Exterl Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s initiative in helping Lalit Modi to secure British travel papers on the plea of “humanitarian grounds” is not only an unfortute breach of protocol in diplomatic relations, but an unethical initiative. Besides, she clearly overreached herself as the Exterl Affairs Minister of India in taking such an initiative to help someone who had allegedly committed serious foreign exchange offences and one who had several cases against him. Worse, Lalit Modi, former IPL chief, was seen as a fugitive from justice who had to somehow remain in Britain to evade the legal actions pending against him.
It will be recalled that in October 2010, the Delhi sessions court summoned Lalit Modi in a foreign exchange case. Modi replied from London that he could not attend due to security concerns. In March 2011, the Regiol Passport Officer of Mumbai revoked his passport. In 2012, the Indian High Commission in London handed over a diplomatic note to the British government cautioning it that if Britain were to issue travel papers to Modi, it would adversely impact bilateral relations. This happened around the time Modi appealed to the Delhi High Court for revocation of the ban on his passport. In August 2013, Sushma Swaraj’s husband mailed Modi on his nephew’s admission to a law course in the UK. In July 2014, Lalit Modi spoke to Sushma Swaraj and sought her help for securing British travel papers. Sushma Swaraj then told the British High Commissioner in New Delhi that the concerns articulated by India in 2012 were no longer valid. With this unethical nudge from the Exterl Affairs Minister and a bit of help from Keith Vaz, an Indian-origin Labour MP of Britain, Lalit Modi was able to obtain British travel papers. He travelled to Portugal and returned to London. Perhaps Lalit Modi could have done without Sushma Swaraj’s help because in August 2014 the Delhi High Court ordered the government to revive Lalit Modi’s passport. The government chose not to challenge the order in the Supreme Court. Had Sushma Swaraj got the necessary feedbacks on Lalit Modi’s initiatives to get his passport revived, she may not have got involved in the rash initiative of informing the British government that the concerns articulated by India in 2012 no longer held. In her case, the conflict of interests that made her overreach herself seems to have stemmed from two persol equations: (a) having to seek Lalit Modi’s help in securing admission for her nephew in a law course in Britain and (b) Sushma Swaraj’s daughter Baansuri being one of Lalit Modi’s lawyers in the numerous cases pending against him. These facts constitute conflicts of interest that are very significant when the Exterl Affairs Minister of a country is involved. These conflicts have led our Foreign Minister not only to overreach herself, but to get involved in undoing earlier diplomatic initiatives between two countries. This is something that is not done. Decisions of a country conveyed earlier to another country with which diplomatic ties exist, are not brushed aside because a different political country is in power. One is dealing not with just a political party as in domestic relations, but rather with another country to which an earlier decision on bilateral issues had been conveyed. One cannot claim one fine morning that an alleged crimil whose passport had been revoked has ceased to be a crimil just because another political party is in power. To even suggest that another country should issue a passport to such an individual is a highly improper and unethical request. It is hardly surprising that the Opposition should be up in arms against the Exterl Affairs Minister. Prime Minister rendra Modi must emerge from his present cocoon of silence and take a just stand on the highly objectioble action of his Exterl Affairs Minister. No matter what she keeps saying about her status, one cannot ignore her proximity to the Reddy brothers of the mining scam of Kartaka that had led to the fall of the BJP government in Kartaka.