Bengal touch in Putin gift

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by Peter, Dec 25, 2015.

  1. Peter

    Peter Pratik Maitra Senior Member

    Mar 3, 2014
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    Bengal touch in Putin gift
    - Keen to rediscover Gujarat link, Modi gets taste of east

    Moscow, Dec. 24: Russian President Vladimir Putin has gifted Prime Minister Narendra Modi a token of friendship from a century the Indian leader fondly recalls.

    But the memento has no link to Gujarat, Modi's home state whose 18th-century trade ties with a Russian port he likes to highlight.

    Putin's gift last night was an 18th-century sword from Bengal's Najafi dynasty of nawabs, started by Mir Jafar who was placed on the throne by the British after the Battle of Plassey in 1757.

    As Prime Minister, Modi has repeatedly invoked Gujarat's connections with different nations to try and underscore their historic ties with India.

    With Putin, Modi has twice referred to Astrakhan, a Caspian Sea port that in the 18th century emerged as a key node in trade between South and East Asia on the one hand and Central Asia and Europe on the other.

    "We in Gujarat have the feeling that Astrakhan is very close to us," Modi had told Putin at their July 15, 2014, meeting in Brazil's Fortaleza, venue of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa summit last year.

    "I had the feeling that these two regions, Gujarat and Astrakhan, are very close to each other culturally."

    In July this year, Modi told Putin that he would like to visit Astrakhan during his trip to Russia for the annual summit between the nations in December. But, now in Russia on that trip, Modi hasn't been able to travel to Astrakhan because it is too cold and lacks the infrastructure to host the summit.

    At the Kremlin last night, Putin served up an alternative 18th-century link.

    "President Putin gifted me an 18th-century sword from Bengal with intricate silver work," Modi tweeted. "I thanked him."

    Putin also gifted Modi copies of handwritten notes from Mahatma Gandhi to Soviet leaders.

    Neither the Indian foreign office nor the Kremlin explained how the Najafi-era sword had reached Russia.

    But research on medieval and early modern trade relations between India and Russia throws up possible explanations.

    Czech researcher Michal Wanner, in his 2012 book Indian Trading Community in Astrakhan, writes about Indian influences that extended well beyond Gujarat.

    Wanner's book quotes letters from an English merchant, Anthony Jenkinson, in the first half of the 17th century, referring to Indian traders bringing goods and seeking commodities to buy in return.

    "I have suggested barter to the merchants from these countries who come from the furthest parts of India, even Bengali and the river Ganga, to get other commodities in exchange for linen," Wanner quotes Jenkinson.

    Through the 18th and 19th centuries, the East India Company and its Russia-centred British counterpart, the Muscovy Company, too traded extensively.

    For Modi, India's historic relations with most countries have at least in his public comments revolved largely around Gujarat so far.

    When Modi first met Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, he talked about how "ages ago, the Gir cow made its way all the way from Gujarat to Brazil".

    And in July last year, when he met French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Modi thanked him for French assistance to a conservation project in Ahmedabad.

    Last night, Putin forced a change.
  3. rockey 71

    rockey 71 Senior Member Senior Member

    Mar 5, 2015
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    Obviously the Russians do not realize how Bengalis and Indians have loathed Mir Jafar and his house.
    OneGrimPilgrim likes this.

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