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Lord Swraj Paul scripts history

December 19, 2008 12:07 IST

NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul scripted history by becoming the first Asian to preside over the proceedings in the House of Lords, which co-incidentally witnessed an absorbing debate on Mumbai terror attacks and Sachin Tendulkar's match-winning century against England.

Participating in the 150-minute long debate on Thursday, Chairman of the UK-India Business Council Lord Karan Bilimoria congratulated Lord Paul on his appointment as the Deputy Speaker of the House and said that Non-Resident Immigrants in Britain were now reaching the top positions in every field.

Several Peers walked up to Lord Paul on assuming the high office as he sat on the woolsack, a large red seat stuffed with wool, at the front of the Lords Chamber. Lady Aruna Paul witnessed the proceedings from the special gallery.

Conferred the Peerage in 1996 and honoured with the Padma Bhushan by President of India in 1983, 77-year-old Lord Paul is one of the most famous Indian origin entrepreneurs based in Britain.

He is the founder of the multinational company Caparo, the UK-based steel and engineering group, with an annual turnover of 1.5 billion pounds.

Lord Bilimoria said that he thoroughly enjoyed the recent Chennai Test between India and England and was overjoyed when Sachin Tendulkar scored a century and India won the tie, Sachin dedicating the century to the people of India.

He said despite the recent terrorists' attacks and all India's challenges and complexities, these difficulties would not hold back India's 'unstoppable momentum'.

Hyderabad-born Lord Bilimoria commended India for its restraint in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and said the attacks were not just an attack on Mumbai but an attack on the US, Israel and Britain.

Lord Bilimoria said, "Terrorists will never, ever win" and India "remains a steadfast pluralist and secular democracy where 99.9 per cent of all its religious groups co-exist peacefully side by side everyday".

He asked the British government, given its experience in counter-terrorism activities, to work together with the Indian police, intelligence services and the armed services 'for India's and for our own benefit and security'. He commended the Indian government's decision to rush through a bill to create an FBI-style investigative agency.

Lord Bilimoria, who founded the Cobra Beer, said: "India is reaping the rewards of the liberalisation of its economy since 1991 and that the world has woken up to India and India is rightly taking its place at the top table of the world."

"The relationship between Britain and India is stronger than ever, people-to-people, business-to-business, and government-to-government," he said.

Baroness Cox referred to the attacks on Christians in Orissa by Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad supporters and demanded a CBI probe into dereliction of duty by officials and payment of adequate compensation to affected people in the state.

She said an EU delegation including a representative of Britain had recently visited Orissa and according to it 69 people were killed and 50 others were missing. An estimated 54,000 people in Orissa were displaced after the attacks on Christians and 20,000 of them were still living in jungles.

Lord Bhiku Parekh, congratulating Lord Paul on his 'new incarnation' as Deputy Speaker, said he was rightly presiding over an important debate on India.

Currently British Ambassador for Overseas Business, Lord Paul is Chancellor of two universities -- the University of Westminster and the University of Wolverhampton.

Lord Paul was also appointed as Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Committee with the key task of providing infrastructure for the London Olympics 2012.

Describing the terrorists' attack on Mumbai as brutal, Lord Parekh said India's response was very mature. He also congratulated Sachin Tendulkar on his century in the Chennai test, knowing full well that it would heal the hurt of Indians after the Mumbai terror attacks.

Lord Parekh said that Muslims in India have achieved considerable success in several fields including sports and Bollywood.

Referring to Kashmir issue, he said Pakistan can not claim to be representatives of Muslims in Kashmir as India, a secular nation, has more Muslims than even in Pakistan.

Lord Anderson of Swansea described the attack on Christians in August as the worst violence against them since 1947.

Holding VHP and other Hindu extremists responsible for the attacks, Lord Anderson asked British government to have a fresh look at VHP, UK as a charity.

He said in the attacks on Christians 500 houses were burnt, 100 shops destroyed and 50 churches attacked.

Recalling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's description of the attacks as a 'National Shame', Lord Anderson said these attacks had damaged the reputation of India globally.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth also referred to the attacks on Christians and Dalits in Orissa, saying it was a blot on humanity and a blot on India. Lord Navnit Dholakia, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, said the terrorists' intentions in attacking Mumbai was not simply to destabilise the India's financial hub but it was more sinister than that.

"It was aimed at many of our democratic institutions in the free world," he said, adding the UN must urgently consider sanctions against those countries that provide shelter and financial support to terrorists.

Lord Dholakia said the International community, on its part should ensure that there is a comprehensive convention to deal with cross-border terrorism. "This is the biggest menace we all face."

He said one of the most unexplained dimensions of this terrorist attack was that for the first time foreigners have been targeted. They played no part in any dispute between India and Pakistan, he said.

Lord Dholakia said to its credit the Muslim community in India is predominately law-abiding and there is no evidence that they are involved in terrorist activities.

He said the role of the 'ISI and the Pakistan's future to democracy seems incompatible'.

"We cannot compensate for the lives that have been lost but it is clear that after the bombing at the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the attacks on the Indian Parliament, explosions in Bangalore and Jaipur and the atrocities at the Akshardam Temple in Gujarat, there is irrefutable evidence that the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayiba has been responsible for those attacks."

He said the intercept evidence provided by the United States and the intelligence obtained by the Security Service have confirmed this and Condoleezza Rice has been forthright in bringing this to the attention of the Pakistan government.

Noting that Pakistan has an important role to perform in containing terrorism, he said the use of their territory for launching an attack of this kind against perpetrators of such heinous acts requires strong action on their part.

"It is not enough to see Al Qaeda as sole agents for terrorism. There is evidence that young radicalised people often the product of madrasas are now actively involved, and their activities do not recognise terrestrial boundaries."
H S Rao in London
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