Analysis: US Needs to Make Amends
Intro:Unless individuals and organisations, both in India and the USA, who are still the interlocutors for the USA on various issues, including the visa issues are not discontinued from the line of contact, the USA will continue to make blunders
The article “Productive but Joyless? Narendra Modi and US-India Relations” that was published on May 12, 2014 in The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (which is a unique global network of policy research centers in Russia, China, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States) website by Ashley J. Tellis is patronising, and is bordering on arrogance in content and tone.
I wish to state that there has to be a clear understanding that the United States of America (USA) had committed a blunder in revoking Modi’s visa. They did it to pander to various constituencies, at home and in India, with an intention of taking a supposed moral high ground. Though garbed in various legal/moral terminologies, we had said at the time too that it was a political decision.
Ashley has said, “Narendra Modi is well-placed to rebuild U.S.-India relations—but only if he and Washington can move beyond an old grudge,” and is placing the maximum responsibility on Modi to try to clean up the mess that the USA has created.
He is right when he says, “The fact that Modi has never been charged, let alone convicted, in an Indian court for his involvement in the Gujarat riots only makes his bitterness at the US action more implacable. He believes that he has been unfairly penalised on allegations that have not held up in his own country’s judicial system…..” Yet this technicality is unlikely to satisfy Modi because the US State Department’s previous revocation of his personal visa, coupled with what has been a deliberate US distance from him over the years, remains an ingrained slight that will be hard to mollify.
Modi has every reason and valid one too, for being bitter. And I trust he accepts that many people in India view the action by the USA as an affront not just to Modi as an individual but to our country as a whole. It brings back memories of “The Ugly American.”
Ashley says, “While this constitutes an important overture, it is unlikely to win Modi’s heart and mind. What would make the difference to him is either a public American expression of regret for the visa revocation or an open personal welcome to the United States.”
Is the writer not aware that a public expression of regret is necessary to rectify the very grave damage that the USA has done? To say it is ‘politically impossible’ is an example of patronising bordering on arrogance that I mentioned in the beginning. The issue is not politics, but what is the right thing to do. If it is right for the USA to put politics over the right thing to do, then surely it would be right for India to act in similar way. However, in many parts of the article, the writer is asking India in general, and Modi in particular, to bend over backwards to give a sort of face saving to the USA. The face of India is not important, it would seem to me.
He further says, “Even though Modi’s personal feelings toward Washington are not particularly warm today, he is not likely to go out of his way to spite the United States out of personal pique.” Modi has said this in very explicit terms in some interviews where he was asked the question of the revocation of the visa. He has taken many steps forward to try and rectify the damage. But if the USA does not reciprocate positively, by making an apology, then things will worsen further. And, in his article, Ashley seems to imply that the responsibility is entirely on India to rectify the mess that the USA has done, and is trying to make amends in a sort of grudging way. It is said that good relations benefit both parties. But it will remain a cliché if the relationship is not based on mutual respect. International relations can no longer be conducted on the basis of strength, but on basis of mutual respect.
“Modi’s ascension to center stage in Indian politics, because so many observers continue to associate him with the Gujarat riots, has revived fears in India and in the United States that India’s minorities may once again face elevated dangers”, says the writer. To this, i expect him to make a comment whether the association is valid, and whether the fears are real. If the answer is ‘yes’, then surely he should say that Modi should remain the pariah that the USA has judged him to be prior to his very recent meeting with Nancy Powell in the capital of Gujarat.
“Modi may well continue to harbor rigid Hindu nationalist beliefs that are anathema to many of his own countrymen,” writes Ashley. But could he tell, how many is the many? And who are they? Secondly, I would like him to make a study of what exactly are ‘Hindu nationalist beliefs”, and why they should be anathema. Perhaps, his scope of work has, so far, not enabled you to make the study. But, I would recommend him to do so. And request him to not consider this as a condescending suggestion.
Today, the Pakistanis complain that they are the biggest victim of the Islamic terrorism. However, they do nothing to dismantle the camps of the terrorists that are operating against the interest of India. There is a projection that peace in Pakistan is far more important for India than Pakistan. The tragedy is that the so-called liberals in India and Pakistan mouth this type of unreasonable pronouncements which do nothing to find an enduring solution.
Towards the end of the article Ashley says, “A congratulatory call from Obama to Modi followed by a visit to India by a US cabinet member or higher-ranking official would go a long way.” This is the type of patronising that will no longer work. If Modi accepts this type of frivolous gesture, then he would be doing great disservice to India.
In its press release at the time of the revocation of the visa, available at:
http://2001-2009. state.gov/p/ sca/rls/rm/2005/43701.htm it is said that: This decision applies to Mr. Narendra Modi only. It is based on the fact that, as head of the State government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, he was responsible for the performance of state institutions at that time. The State Department's detailed views on this matter are included in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Report. Both reports document the violence in Gujarat from February 2002 to May 2002 and cite the Indian National Human Rights Commission report, which states there was “a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of rights of life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the people of the state.”
Clearly the USA pretends that it has taken the decision to revoke the visa on the basis of a due diligence and not on the basis of a whim. The above is the stated position of the USA, which has not been reversed. Hence, we do not understand how the revocation can be legally done, without making a public statement that the assessment was wrong. And we all know that it was legally wrong given the legal process that India has applied to the case.
It is clear then that there are individuals and organisations, both in India and the USA, who still have an agenda of deliberately targeting Hindu organisations to put these organisations on the defensive. Very often we have seen the USA being a collaborator in this effort, even if it is inadvertently. It is high time the USA recognises the game being played, and make amends. And identify individuals and organisations that have misled the USA into taking the decision to revoke the visa, as they still are the interlocutors for the USA on various issues, and not just the visa issue, and that there is a high degree of probability that they would again be misleading the USA; so unless they are discontinued from the line of contact, the USA will continue to make blunders.