British Prime Minister David Cameron may not have many opportunities to be a statesman when he is busy managing the coalition, but with his visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, he certainly had and took the opportunity. Cameron called the massacre of more than three hundred Indians ‘deeply shameful’, and paid his respects at the holiest site in Sikhism, laying a wreath there. Important to note however, is that he did not fully apologise.
Regardless, it must be incredibly difficult to take responsibility and show regret for actions that occurred decades before you were born – the massacre happened 94 years ago. Cameron showed great humility here, and was careful to follow religious customs by covering his head and washing his feet before entering the holy site barefoot. The interview I saw with him displayed him as being incredibly sincere and in touch with the feelings of his hosts; this may or may not have been purely political, but it certainly came across as heartfelt, and not at all like a ‘necessary’ apology, which we so often see when politicians find themselves in sticky situations.
There’s little more insulting than when an apology (although this wasn’t really a 100% apology) is given without genuine feeling. Even if an apology isn’t meant, it can be done with sincerity, all you need to do is empathise with the other party. I may not think I need to apologise, but if those I’m apologising to feel strongly enough to want one, it will only do good for relations to give one.