Connecting Regions of Asia.

Britain’s Vaccine Double Standards Not Unique


India is fully justified in warning Britain of ‘reciprocal steps’ of its vaccine discrimination policy that effectively refuses to recognise India’s Covid vaccines as effective.
Or else why would Britain ( I refuse to add the prefix ” Great” ) consider Indian travellers who have taken two doses of Astra Zeneca anti-Covid vaccines as ‘ unvaccinated’ and subjected them to mandatory ten days of self isolation. 
Citizens like twenty countries like Saudi Arabia , whose citizens have taken India-made vaccines, are allowed into Britain without being subjected to self-isolation. The AstraZeneca vaccine is made in India but it is designed by Oxford and five million of the nearly 48 million vaccines administered to British citizens were these ‘Made in India’ AstraZenecaOxford1 vaccines.
India is well within its right to retaliate , if only to remind Britain it is no longer an Empire where the Sun did not set but merely an Island, where it fails to rise often.
I have seen the ugly play of British double-standards in my personal career with the BBC, where I worked 17 long years as a staff, and before that , 6 years as stringer.
Halfway through my career, our employment liability was transferred to a new subsidiary , BBC India.  Then in 2011, ten years before the due date of my date of retirement (  at the age of 65) , I was given the golden handshake alongwith scores of other staffers on grounds of budgetary shortfall in UK. The BBC, we were told, could no longer afford some of its well-paid Indian journalists because of a big fall in its revenues . If this was not bad enough, we were denied the pension that BBC staffers get back in London or elsewhere as inalienable part of the package. When we pressed hard, we were told we were not entitled to pension because we were ‘local hire’ while those recruited in London were expats . So a Bengali producer , recruited in London on my recommendation, gets pension, I dont. From an organisation, to which I gave my youth and served seventeen long years .
Some of my colleagues were in a mood for legal action, until we discovered that all disputes arising out of BBC India contracts were under the jurisdiction of the Courts of England. So here was an Indian subsidiary, we paid tax in India, but we could not take BBC to an Indian court. Real smart , isn’t it. How could we journalists fight mighty BBC in far-off England ? 
But if something similar happened to a British employee in an Indian company, the self-righteous British media would descend on us with long sermons on Rule of Law.
The same double standards are evident in handling terrorism or security issues. When British national Peter Bleach is caught red handed for his involvement in the 1995 Purulia armsdrop case, the British diplomats in India rush to lobby for his release under cover of ‘consular access’. They finally managed to secure his release with a Presidential pardon for a man who had dropped a huge consignment of lethal weapons in an Indian state.
Imagine an Indian caught supplying weapons to IRA revolutionaries in Belfast ? Would India rush to his defence and would the British Crown pardon him ?
Bangladesh 1971 war criminals live freely in Britain as London turns down Bangladesh’s request for extraditing them to stand trial in Dhaka for horrific crimes they committed in 1971 alongside  the Pakistan army, long considered a strategic asset by US and UK in the war against terror.  But in British law, they are innocent because they raped Bengali, not British women and killed Bengali not British people.
Khalistani and Kashmiri separatists freely operate from London and any attempt to square up with them by Indian diplomats or intelligence is met with fierce resistance by British authorities. The Pakistani intelligence can get away murdering MQM leaders in London. Indian intelligence is obstructed even in routine surveillance of these separatists who plan and fund violent action on Indian soil. 
So why should we feel hurt or express sympathy when an Islamist radical attacks British police on the Tower Bridge ?  I dont suggest we celebrate but isn’t it expected that the country which is the single largest foreign base for South Asian terror or insurgent groups will receive some blowback . 
And before a James or Jones dare get back at me, let me remind all that Angami Zapu Phizo, the father  of Naga separatism, lived longer in UK than in his native Nagaland after crossing his teens. 
So he can live without fear in UK and plan the secession of Nagaland from India, feeding British journalists big stories about human rights excesses to unsettle Delhi.  It is time for some tit-for-tat even if it is only about vaccines.
Subir Bhaumik, a veteran BBC Correspondent and Oxford Fellow, is author of five books on South Asian Conflicts and editorial director at Easternlink) 

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