The Indian Express reports that France’s Foreign Minister has reassured New Delhi that the recent French law outlawing obvious religious symbols in public schools is not designed to victimize French Sikhs.
Why did New Delhi even take up this matter with France? India has no business intervening in the internal affairs of France. The Sikhs in France are French citizens – their Indian ancestry or religion is not reason enough for India to intervene on their behalf. They have to obey the laws of the land they belong to, or struggle to change those laws that work against their interests. But that is purely a matter for France and its Sikh citizens.
When India does not want Saudi Arabia or Pakistan to speak for Indian Muslims, or for the Pope to speak for Indian Catholics why should it aspire to speak for France’s Sikhs? It would have been another story if they were Indian citizens, but they are not. New Delhi would do well to stay out of other people’s faces and mind its own business.
Update: K P Nayar writes that India lost a great opportunity to develop better relations with France, whose support is crucial to India’s quest for global influence.
The visit of the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, last month was an opportunity that was squandered by India, dashing hopes that the visit would be used to transform a bilateral relationship which is critical to New Delhi’s goals of becoming a global power. But neither South Block nor the prime minister’s office, which takes a special interest in relations with France, is to blame. It was tragic — perhaps comic — that an impression gained ground in New Delhi even before de Villepin landed in the capital that the big issue he was coming to sort out was the unhappiness among Sikhs, both in India and France, caused by the new French requirement that religious apparel has no place in public schools. That farcical impression was reinforced when the visiting minister met Tarlochan Singh, chairman of the minorities commission, and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, representing the Shiromani Akali Dal. Caught up in all this, Indians were largely unaware of the lengths to which de Villepin, well acquainted with Indian sensitivities during his posting in New Delhi as a diplomat a decade ago, had gone to accommodate those sensitivities in planning his visit…
De Villepin’s decision to combine India and Afghanistan in a single trip was a gesture of deep sensitivity — for which the French are, of course, famous — that was regrettably lost on the Indians. It was a remarkable gesture since de Villepin journeyed all the way to south Asia again last week to talk to the Pakistanis en route to Japan. [The Telegraph]