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India’s beef politics ‘troubling’, says former Singapore Minister

Singapore: The politics surrounding consumption of beef in India refuses to die down and has caused anxiety even outside the country, with Singapore’s former Foreign Minister George Yeo saying he is “troubled” by the nervousness in India over the issue.

Yeo, who is now a chancellor of Bihar’s Nalanda University that is being rebuilt as a global institution, writes in a lengthy foreword to veteran journalist Ravi Velloor’s new book how he was once advised by a well-wisher to delete a Facebook post that had a picture of him eating beef noodles.

The 61-year-old politician said he was “troubled” when a former Congress minister’s son advised him to delete the post.

“I had uploaded a picture of my wife and I eating pho (Vietnamese beef noodles) in Harvard Square,” wrote Yeo. “The son of former Congress leader thought it might elicit a negative response in India to my role as the new chancellor of Nalanda University.

“I knew he meant well. I did not follow his advice of course but his nervousness troubled me,” he wrote in the foreword to “India Rising: Fresh Hopes, New Fears” which was launched here last week.

Yeo said the tolerance and celebration of diversity in the Indian civilisation was an important reason for India’s less violent ways. As long as it stays rooted in this tradition, its contribution to the world will be much greater than just the political and economic, he said.

Velloor says that the world would have looked at Narendra Modi differently had the ill-fated train that was burnt in 2002 in Godhra, Gujarat, been attacked a 100 kms earlier while it was still in Madhya Pradesh.

It also claims that Modi, then a newly-installed chief minister of Gujarat, had reached out to all three neighbouring states for police reinforcements after rioting started but help was declined to him.

After that initial stumble, Gujarat had enjoyed a long period of communal peace under Modi, says the book, which was released by Singapore Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

However, the book – that portrays the rise of India as a global power – says that though there is a growing sense of excitement about the country, its closest friends abroad have started to worry about strains to its secular fabric.

Prime Minister Modi has also not done quite enough to assuage the fears of the country’s minorities, the book says.

Velloor also details other instances when world leaders have shown similar worries.

In January, 2015, US President Barack Obama during his second visit to India warned that India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith.

Likewise, in November, at an official lunch for Modi, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong drew attention to the contributions of minority groups on the island state, including Muslim emigres from Modi’s Gujarat state.

Singapore deputy premier Tharman Shanmugaratnam gifted a ceramic vase to Modi after a lecture during the visit, and let drop that the pottery was crafted by the city-state’s most eminent Muslim artist, according to the book.