Boris Johnson in attempting to leverage his visit to India to applaud the success of JCB, the digger company owned by a Tory donor, was instead faced with a backlash on Thursday over the company’s machinery historically in being used for large home demolitions.
The prime minister came in India as a bitter feud erupted in Delhi over the demolition of mostly Muslim communities in an area of the capital plagued by sectarian violence — an issue that India’s supreme court is considering.
JCB bulldozers were seen flattening properties in footage shown on Indian television concerning the demolition dispute. “In the backdrop of Municipal Corporation of Delhi utilising JCB bulldozers too raze down shops of Muslims in north-west Delhi’s Jahangirpuri yesterday, UK prime minister’s inauguration of a JCB factory in Gujarat is not only ignorant but his silence on the incident is deafening.” said an official of Amnesty India in a tweet.
“The British PM went to a bulldozer factory at a time like this!” wrote Ali Khan Mahmudabad, a historian and advocate. “Talk about optics. Wow! Garlanded Bulls just what I needed to see.”
Johnson described a new JCB factory as a “living, breathing incarnation of the umbilicus between the UK and India” during his visit there. “This is a world-leading facility,” he remarked. “We export 600,000 diggers a year from India to 110 nations using British technology.”
His meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Boris Johnson made headway with India on a post-Brexit trade pact, but he failed to urge Prime Minister to criticise Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.
The Prime Minister celebrated a “huge push” during their meeting in New Delhi on Friday to achieve a basis for completing free trade agreement (FTA) by Diwali, in October. However, he stated at a news conference that he did not try to persuade Mr Modi to abandon India’s neutrality in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.