By N.S. Rajaram
There is an influential group of rogue elements that has wormed its way into the Indian government that is bent on sabotaging growing Indo-American relations in defence and anti-terrorism. That is the picture emerging from individuals close to the Indian government as well as US diplomatic sources.
The newly appointed Secretary of State, Dr Condoleezza Rice is known to be friendly towards India. Yet, on the heels of her maiden visit to the region as Secretary of State, she found herself embroiled in a major controversy over a relatively minor issue like a visa to a local politician. She had more important things to do. But as a result of this inadvertent diplomatic gaffe, the State Department is now engaged in a damage control exercise, no matter what its public posture. (A great power like the US can hardly admit that it committed a blunder.)
It was not supposed to happen this way, especially since Dr Rice was the highest US official to visit the region after President Bush'ssecond inauguration. One can never be sure, especially after the diplomatic gaffe over visa denial, but Dr Rice seems to have come with directions to make two major announcements. First, an October visit to India and Pakistan by President Bush. Second, increased defence and technology cooperation with both India and Pakistan against the background of improving Indo-Pak relations. The major beneficiary would be India in both defence and nuclear technology.
This was derailed by rogue elements within the Indian government, which managed to deceive some American officials by feeding false information. They told the State Department officials that the Indian public would overwhelmingly welcome any US action against the Gujarat CM, Narendra Modi, who they assured was extremely unpopular in India. Believing this would be seen as a friendly gesture to further improve Indo-US ties, the US announced denial of visa to Modi.
The Indian reaction was exactly the opposite of what the US had been told. They were totally unprepared for it?with Indians seeing the decision as an assault on India'ssovereignty. The US had committed a major diplomatic blunder over a relatively minor issue.
Accounts vary in detail, but all agree on one point: the initiative to deny visa to Modi came from the Indian side, and from people at the highest levels of the Indian Government, possibly the PMO itself, though as usual, Dr Manmohan Singh was kept in the dark.
Rogue Elements: Their Agenda
Who was behind this act of sabotage? Accounts vary in detail, but all agree on one point: the initiative to deny visa to Modi came from the Indian side, and from people at the highest levels of the Indian government, possibly the PMO itself, though as usual, Dr Manmohan Singh was kept in the dark. It is no secret that in the present government, political cronies and court favourites?anti-Hindu activists and sundry missionaries enjoy extraordinary influence. Now, some of them have wormed their way into an outfit close to the US State Department.
Their identity came out in the open within a week, when the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a 283-page report Supporting Human Rights and Democracy. What is strange about this report is that it compliments the UPA but reiterates its concern over the situation in Gujarat?about school textbooks of all things! In a condescending tone, the report observes: ?Following its electoral victory in May, the government [UPA] began to address a number of human rights concerns that have arisen in recent years. For example, it moved quickly to rewrite school textbooks…?
This is a dead giveaway. Since when did the US government begin to worry about textbooks in Gujarat schools? Actually, what the report contains is a word-for-word reproduction of numerous charges by Indian secularists, especially Christian missionary activists like Father Cederick Prakash, George Sajjan and others of their ilk carrying on anti-Hindu propaganda under the cover of ?human rights?. They used their contacts in the US Christian Right (evangelicals) to get their input into the USCIRF report. Then they used their media contacts in India to give exaggerated importance to this part of this unreadable and never read report as ?State Department? policy, which the gullible Indian media seems to have swallowed.
The truth of the matter is that USCIRF is not a government body but a commission of outside experts on contract to the government. (I have served in similar capacity for NASA and other US organisations.) Their reports are signed off by a relatively minor bureaucrat (called a ?contract monitor?), and are filed away into obscurity. What made it different this time were two initiatives: (1) a successful effort by moles in the Indian government to mislead the US, leading to Modi'svisa denial; (2) a media campaign for their input into the USCIRF report with exaggerated claims. It is no accident that the head of the USCIRF happens to be one Priya Bansal, an Indian-American with close ties to Gujarat-based Christian organisations.
There is more to this treachery than hatred of Modi. It is part of a larger agenda to sabotage improving of Indo-US relations. In fact, on the heels of this setback, the US made a major announcement: it wants to help India become a major power in the 21st century, which these rogue elements want stopped. Nor do they want improved Indo-Pak relations. Keeping the conflict alive serves their interests better.
In this nefarious campaign, the culprits seem to have enlisted the help of some right-wing evangelical elements and Leftist academics in America. Both are traditionally anti-Hindu. In addition, many of them intensely dislike Dr Condoleezza Rice as too moderate and too friendly towards India. My information is that two institutions, one a university in Georgia with links to conservative Christian outfits and the other, the so-called California Institute of Integral Studies, were at the vanguard of this campaign.
One cannot also rule out an element of racism in all this, for many of these Christian right-wingers are only one generation removed from the Civil Rights Movement, which they bitterly opposed. They see Dr Rice as a moderate African-American, and a brilliant and successful one to boot. (Indian Christians of course, prefer to associate with whites and generally avoid blacks as I have noticed in the US. Their wish is to see India ruled again by white people.)
They used their contacts in the US Christian Right (evangelicals) to get their input into the USCIRF report. Then they used their media contacts in India.
What seems to have caught the Americans on the wrong foot is the near dysfunctional state of the UPA government with its multiple power centres (and without accountability). After nearly six years of dealing with a capable government with firm direction and strong leadership, they did not expect to be blindsided by rogue elements going over the Prime Minister'shead and meddling in international relations. Americans took their statements about Modi in good faith, only to be stabbed in the back. It was a classic case of double cross.
One can be sure that Americans have taken note of this and will be more careful in the future. A great power does not like to be made a fool of. The US government is not the UPA government and Condoleezza Rice is not Manmohan Singh. She is a brilliant and cultured person who does not surround herself with political cronies like Margaret Alva and Ajit Jogi or unscrupulous foreign adventurers like Quattrocchi, Benny Hinns and now Grace Brenta.
Many of them intensely dislike Dr Condoleezza Rice as too moderate and too friendly towards India. My information is that two institutions, one a university in Georgia with links to conservative Christian outfits and the other, the so-called California Institute of Integral Studies, were at the vanguard of this campaign.
There are unconfirmed reports that US authorities are looking into the activities and the funding sources of those behind this misadventure?like the impoverished California Institute of Integral Studies. Its loudest voice, an academic nonentity called Anjana Chatterji, is close to several Islamic publications and websites, where she has condemned President Bush and his policies while taking a consistently pro-Jehadi stand. She has openly boasted that she was responsible for the Modi visa denial.
In the final analysis, the Indian government and its spineless leadership was more to blame for this diplomatic fiasco than anyone else. But one thing is certain: ?human rights? have been hijacked by Jehadi sympathisers hostile to both India and the United States. One can only hope that the Indians have learnt their lesson. Americans certainly have.