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Sunday, June 15, 2014

White House, 'blacklisted' Modi start on a cleam slate

Outside the gaze of an otherwise watchful media, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is suddenly at the receiving end of some mild criticism from a group that has been among his most avid backers since his early days as Gujarat chief minister. The reason: Modi’s decision to accept President Barack Obama’s invitation to the White House after his speech at the UN General Assembly.

It is not that the clutch of self-professed ‘internet Hindus’ harbour a visceral hatred of Uncle Sam and all that he represents. Some may, but they would be a smaller fraction of this vocal group. Modi, or so the argument goes, can well get himself photographed with the US president and exchange pleasantries but only after the State Department has issued a public apology for earlier denying him a visa in 2005. Equally important, there is a demand that the US administration both name and disavow those interlocutors on whose advice successive administrations put Modi on the visa blacklist.

The demand is not as outrageous as the practitioners of ‘nuanced’ diplomacy who abound in India may feel. The unilateral denial of a visa to the then Gujarat chief minister -apparently at the behest of evangelical lobbyists -was more than simply gratuitous. It was a crude attempt by the US State Department to both interfere in India’s domestic politics and prejudge the judicial process. It was, to say the least, an act of utmost arrogance that lost the US considerable goodwill among a section of opinion that had earlier little reason to be antiAmerican. Indeed, had the Modi visa issue not vitiated the atmosphere, the endorsement of the Indo-US nuclear deal would have been far more bipartisan. The unfortunate visa spat portrayed the US as a political ally of the Congress and, by implication, as needlessly hostile to the BJP. The framework of Indo-US engagement ended up being punctured.

What compounded the US’s miscalculation was its persistence in cold shouldering Modi when all the evidence pointed to his playing a more and more important role in national politics. Whether this was due to the pig-headedness of the local US embassy or a consequence of inputs provided by Indian ‘friends’ in academia, media and, of course, national security pundits, will not be immediately known to the outside world. But it should make Washington ponder over the sheer worthlessness of their existing interlocutors and, even more, the detachment of their in-house consultants from Indian realities. Actually there was a bigger problem. It is hardly a secret that engagement with India, either for economic or strategic reasons, is not among President Obama’s overriding priorities. The White House is keen to disengage totally from the quagmire of Afghanistan before the president demits office, but it is unsure as to how events in that turbulent country will play out subsequently.

Certainly, it is in no state to assure India that the post-withdrawal Afghanistan will not affect India adversely. The unmistakable impression is that Washington doesn’t really care, as long as its homeland security isn’t jeopardized. Consequently, unless there is some serious re-thinking going on, the likelihood of the Obama-Modi meeting being devoted to an exchange of pleasantries and some appealing photo-ops cannot be discounted.

Yet, there is significance to the fact that among the 80 or so world leaders that will fly into New York in September for the UNGA, an invitation to the White House was extended to the newest leader on the block. Modi could have chosen to be petulant and spurn the gesture but that would have been graceless. The targeting of Modi the individual by the US was wrong and that misplaced grandstanding will always be symbolically as rankling as the USS Enterprise threat in 1971. India has no reason to be defensive.

When Modi walks into the White House later this year, he will not be harbouring any moral disability . On the contrary , Indians will read lots of meaning into the fact that a man who was barred from entering the country till May 16 is now welcomed into the residence of its First Citizen. It happened not because Obama developed a sudden fondness for Modi but because the force of Indian democracy is morally irresistible.

Sunday Times of India, June 15, 2014


und2 said...

A very thought provoking article. However the refusal of visa to Modi also reflect the narrow mindedness of the kind of advisors US administration is having and the kind of fake secularists of India too whose line of argument US was accepting. US advisors don't know how many riots happenef in Congrrss rule times and even 1984 anti Sikh riots hsd almost direct hand of Congress. Why no visa ban wss imposed on Congress leaders for so long.

Om Prakash Sudrania said...

I'm one of your vast admirers and so of Modi too. Your angst through this post is as nuanced as your usual high powered and elite columns that need scratching
one its brain more than they can assimilate. I fully agree that there is a tirade of too many "Modi supporters" who have started claiming their copyright over brand Modi, which is rather as bad as US' ban of Modi's visa.

I believe that Modi is a far bigger player having a pan global vision in his true 'Hindutva' image. I'm with you on this issue of Modi's acceptance of his visit to Whitehouse. Having said, there is also a strict need to keep watch on their repetition of L B Shashtri saga. Modi will certainly give the Whitehouse back
in their Obama's coin the way Obama screws them by insinuating the power of democracy and his ascension to post of US Prez. I would rather like Modi slap on their 'white brazen' face in the same style and embarrass them, besides the rest all pleasantries etc.

Om Prakash Sudrania said...

Another point that strikes me, "You would know definitely that 2002 Godhra was planned, perpetuated by few Muslim congressmen in Signal Falia". Yet I never see any incrimination by BJPwalas on it? Why are BJPwalas so daftly silent on this very core issue of 2002 Godhra that could silence these3 secullarattis completely on the spot?

Priyanka said...

White house invitation to Modi itself has an inbuilt apology in it. People who were not ready to give visa r welcoming our beloved PM on red carpet which is more embarrasing for themselves n they r eating crow already. Hence, no point for NaMo to not accept the invite. As of now US might seem not caring much about India, but as he realizes China, Russia and Japan proximity with India more n more US will do anything to b with Mr Modi n that's my faith on him :)

Anonymous said...

I personally feel that left liberals, media bozos and many of us, his supporters, too aren't recognizing the philosophical depth of the man, Modi.
Could be his stint in the Himalayas/pan Indian tours/RSS education, the man is way, way ahead in the head.
My brother, like me and most of us, wouldn't let my parents go out and vote on their own.
He took them by car to the voting station, that too in Bengaluru which doesn't exactly scorch in summer.
For modi to have 'let' his mom to travel by auto and vote in the summer oven called Gujarat speaks a lot.
It probably means 'he can't take care of his mom, he snoops, the women in India have had it under him' for most of his haters.
To me it means he is so besotted by the cause he is so doggedly pursuing - India First- that material and familial bonds dont count.
I believe the template he seeks to set will hold India in good stead going forward EVEN if he doesn't win in 2019.
More power to him and his ilk.

Anonymous said...

Cleam Slate sir.

Gaurang Vaishnav said...

I have read somewhere that the ban on visa stays for Modi, the ordinary citizen, i.e., when Modiji leaves office of P.M., he will again become ineligible for USA visa. If true, at least that should have been taken care of.

Anonymous said...

When I look at the world, I see America on the retreat. Putin has again stolen a march on the Americans in Iraq. If a Shia dominated Iraqi regime becomes totally dependent on Russian help to survive, Putin will effectively control the oil in Russia, the Stans, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Venezuela (through proxy) - more than half the world's oil resources. I don't think Obama and his goofball foreign policy advisors have figured this out as YET.

India's foreign policy needs to stay ahead of this CURVE.

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of the American System. But somehow India's interests are different from USA especially since Barack won the Pres elections. I still cannot understand their boycott of Modi and the arrest of our diplomatic officers. It only goes to show the hostility of this US regime. We should avoid them till a friend of India becomes US pres.
Modi should have given them the cold shoulder and sent Sushma Swaraj.