A junior Union Minister Giriraj Singh shocked the nation on Tuesday when he said that had late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi married a Nigerian and not a white-skinned woman, would the Congress have accepted her leadership as it has done in case of Sonia Gandhi, who is a white-skinned Italian? [Giriraj Singh makes racist remark against Sonia Gandhi]
Giriraj was bashed as expected but was only Sonia Gandhi's insult the issue?
As expected, the national media and the opposition started bashing the BJP leader from Bihar, who is known for his hate speeches. He was termed racist by the media and opposition leaders and the Congress was trying to find a way to revive itself by encashing on Singh's repulsive remark.
But is this episode just confined to the issue of racism? Giriraj Singh, through his remark, has not only humiliated an individual in Sonia Gandhi, he has even dishonoured Nigeria, the African country with which India has built close relation in recent years and which is very significant from India's interests, both economic and strategic.
What if Nigeria protests the "black-skin" insult that Giriraj didn't utter but yet made
What if the authorities in Nigeria raises this issue one serious note and threaten to jeopardise Prime Minister Narendra Modi's foreign policy priorities? Given the fact that Singh is a formal member of the BJP-led government at the Centre, the prime minister really can not overlook the moral responsibility if Nigeria seeks an address from him on the issue.
Can PM Modi allow the Giriraj Singhs to jeopardise his foreign policy success?
How much damage control can the PM make then? In fact, can he really afford to put his foreign policy success in a mess because of some irresponsible remark from one of his ministers?
Africa and Nigeria are key for India's strategic gains
Africa is a continent where India has a big stake. It is engaged in a soft but fierce competition with the Chinese there. And in Africa, Nigeria is a very important country from India's perspective.
India & Nigeria's treaty on transferring sentenced people last November
In November last year, Modi's Cabinet gave its approval for signing a treaty on transferring sentenced people between India and Nigeria. The treaty will also facilitate Indian prisoners in Nigeria or Nigerian inmates in India to be near their families and also their social rehabilitation.
PM Modi condemned school attack in Nigeria last year
A few days after this treaty, PM Modi was seen condemning bombing in a school in Nigeria that led to the death of 48 students.
The two countries also have cultural relations and key economic terms. While Nigeria is the largest crude oil supplier to India, which replaced the United States in 2013, India exports pharmaceutical goods, machinery, electronics and rice to the African state. Nigeria is in fact India's largest trading partner in Africa with the bilateral trade doubling in 2008.
India-Nigeria relation had seen disturbance in Goa in 2013: Do we want a similar situation again?
Can the Modi government afford a silly remark to destabilise a growing momentum in the two countries' relation? Such scenario is not new in India-Nigeria relation.
In 2013, tension spread in Goa over the murder of a Nigerian as Nigerian expatriates protested, leading to a law and order problem. A state minister in Goa fuelled the tension terming Nigerians as "cancer" and even the then chief minister of the state, Manohar Parrikar asked the police to expel any Nigerian found to be living illegally in the state.
Nigerian officials also threatened a backlash against the Indian community in Nigeria if such treatment of their countrymen hadn't stopped in India. A sense of panic set in, putting a threat to the growing bilateral relation between the two states.
A lot is being said about what Giriraj told, but little about what he didn't
Will the two nations face another such situation over Singh's derogatory remarks? We have so far been bothered about the humiliation the uttered words "white skinned" caused to Sonia Gandhi. What about the humiliation caused to Nigeria by the unsaid words "black-skinned"?
From Bihar to New Delhi to Nigeria, Giriraj Singh has truly grown in his stature.