Flying visit brings high hopes

Tom Deegan reports on the Indian leader’s brief but successful trip to the Irish Republic, in which he paid homage to victims of the 1985 Air India Bombing.

On Wednesday September 23 India’s new popular Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, paid a visit to Ireland, a former British colony that had escaped from colonial bondage more than a quarter of a century before India managed it. Ireland has a land area of just about one-fortieth of that of India and a population of just three million compared to India’s one billion but it became known as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ because of its rapid economic development before the bankers caused the worldwide recession. India is now one of the most important of the world’s economic growth hopes and its status as a great power is now well established in international considerations. The rest of the world is sitting up and taking notice of everything that happens to the Indian economy because everybody hopes that India, along with its BRIC partners, will help to drag the world economy back on to an even keel soon.

Mr Modi met with the Irish PM, Enda Kenny, and they exchanged gifts. India wants Ireland to back its bid to establish itself as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, something the Irish are likely to favour. Trade between the two countries was also discussed as was the visa system and a number of international issues, including terrorism. something still plaguing India as it did Northern Ireland in recent years.

Mr Modi also met with some of Ireland’s twenty-six thousand Indian residents, many of them still proudly holding Indian citizenship. Indian and Irish children sang verses of Sanskrit Shlokas to the amusement and pleasure of Mr Modi and the audience. The event was a big success.

This was a flying visit that lasted just five hours or so but it was an important stopover that enabled the Indian Prime Minister to pay homage to the victims of the dreadful 1985 bombing of an Air India Jumbo jet over Irish waters in the Atlantic Ocean. Three-hundred and twenty-nine people died in this terrorist outrage, including 86 children. It was the work of Babbar Khalsa, a Khalistani separatist terror group. Only one man was ever convicted for complicity in the bombing.

Most of the recovered bodies were buried in Ireland and a memorial stands in Ahakista Gardens in West Cork. Mr Modi thanked the Irish people for the memorial and the efforts they had made to recover the bodies of the victims thirty years earlier.

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