Unites States of Modi

The tale of Narendra Modi and the United States is also a parable of how the relationship between the two countries requires constant work. And, in part, it’s because they are both democracies in which their respective civil societies can intrude on affairs of state that makes it so difficult.

A quick recap.

In 2005, the administration of George W. Bush revoked the visas of Gujarati chief minister, Narendra Modi, because of his involvement, or at least moral responsibility for, the 2002 anti-Muslim riots. The charge was never clear and the clause in the US immigration law is quite vague.

India should have objected at this point, making the argument that such revocations should await pronouncements by the Indian judicial system. But that would have been impossible for a Congress-led government. The US, which was following the lead of Britain and the European Union, may have been looking for a means to furbish their credentials with Muslims around the world after invading Iraq and Afghanistan.

Modi was able to survive a Supreme Court investigation and, more usefully, kept winning elections in Gujarat. As tends to happen in democracy, the ballot box helped re-legitimize him.

But the international ban caused rancour. Modi visited all over Asia and any country that would have him. Gujarat deliberately diverted contracts away from British firms — as Modi realised that London was the lynchpin of the global boycott.

By the summer of last year, the US State Department was arguing that the US needed to revoke the visa ban. Under US rules, once Modi was declared a prime ministerial candidate Washington would have to sit on the fence until after the elections as it would like the US was helping one candidate over the other.

But the Obama administration, consumed by domestic issues and not especially excited about India, ignored this advice. What, after all, were the benefits of changing the policy given the outcry it would cause among human rights groups. The US had its own doubts about the likelihood of a Modi winning, ones that centred around his need to sweep Uttar Pradesh. Doubts that were still prevalent in December.

But Modi’s victory chances were less important in US calculations than the fact he was a sure shot for the BJP’s candidacy.

The US muffed the shot however. In September, Modi was declared prime ministerial candidate. Britain, the original source of the visa action, had its high commissioner meet the Gujarati leader the next month. The European Union followed quickly afterwards.

Only the US held out. This was because with Modi now as a candidate, its non-interference rule meant it could do nothing about the visa.

Instead Washington began looking at just having a symbolic meeting between its ambassador and Modi, signalled that he was no longer a pariah.

Near the end of November, the US embassy proposed to the Gujarati that he attend some event in New Delhi which the US ambassador was scheduled to go to. Modi, rightly, said nothing doing. It must be a one-on-one and the US ambassador had to come to wherever he was.

The US was grudgingly coming to accept that it would have to fly its envoy to wherever Modi was to unfreeze relations before he became prime minister.

One thing the US diplomats knew also was that many of Modi’s inner circle were openly talking about some sort of retaliation against Washington if he became prime minister. A meeting would, they felt, help blunt this possibility. Modi, after all, had never said anything of the sort.

Then the Devyani Khobragade affair broke out in mid-December and put the whole thing on hold. Khobragade’s return to India, in effect, got the ball rolling again and the US ambassador’s trip to Gujarat this week was the final consequence.

Looking back, it seems that both US and Indian diplomats could have kept this from blowing up if they had applied some thought as to where it was going. Inserting a codicil that the visa ban would apply until the Indian judiciary had pronounced on the matter. A little forethought, a nod to India’s democratic culture and a recognition that in Indian politics is unpredictable could have ensure this never happened.

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  • sudhanshu

    Did u get paid to write this article? What are your views on Prime ministers being born in a family? Why do you think Rahul Gandhi is suitable for vice president of a national political party?


    Ravi Reply:

    She is a shameless Congi stooge.Just read all her previous blogs


  • rakesh katyal

    Congress wants only two talents, sycophancy and the ability to loot. From Shinde to Khurshid to Navin Jindal they meet one or both the requisites. Any other talent if you have Digvijay will not even let you come close to RG.


  • Raghavendra

    Sujata Congress has talent their talent is to hoodwink people in the name of FARM LOAN WAIVER and swindle hundreds of crores of public money.
    Congress has talent to loot this nation in the CWG games.

    i dont feel BJP or any other party has the TALENT like Congress to have a SCAM to the tune of 50,000 crores or 1 lakh crores.

    i feel Congress has great talent in looting this country.


  • Anonymous

    Frankly this blog qualifies to be paid one (obviously by Congress). This journo is corrupt to the core.


  • Plumbline

    Mark 9:24-27……….

    24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”…
    25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” 26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.


  • Javed

    making hay while sun shines for few remaining days, eh sujata?
    as congress days are numbered we guess


  • Guest

    The real talent may have been born on the wrong side of the railway track.


  • EducateJournos

    Oh my my, Ms Sujata Anandan, your biased political views are plainly displayed in your writing… you should do a better job at hiding which side you lean towards and do away with the tosh of “rarely a good word for anyone barring a few exceptions”.

    In this one piece you have attempted to highlight every scheme for the aam aadmi that the Government has floated but none of which have taken off to anybodys satisfaction is something you missed… or the corruptions scandals surrounding anything and everything this regime has touched.

    Coating one’s political leanings with a little bit of sprinkle of criticism is an old writers technique… people have moved on from that to become more honest journos / editors… Some even have stopped taking sides at all… Maybe its time for you to move on rather than use this very powerful tool of being an editor to the advantage of the Congress.

    Kindly do not come back hitting at me that these are your views and you are entitled to them. Because my simple answer would be that I am entitled to my own views too. The difference is, you are permitted to write for Hindustan Times while I have not applied yet. Be a responsible journo and ask yourself what the Congress or UPA represents and then ink anything about them or their opponents as I have read in your column today. Yes this is another Narendra Modi fanboy, and mind you… we are very large in numbers and it would not be intelligent to ignore the sentiments of a growing mass. Anyways do have a fruitful day.


  • Teodorsmith

    I think that its very Politically Manifesto before the election .



  • Brankasmith

    he is very great Youth leader of the congress.basically there are many Lots of Youth leader in the congress but Rahul is very confidence man for congress.he is encourage to congress worker during the election .http://www.prlog.org/12128136-overstock-promo-code-save-upto-30-exclusive-coupon-code.html


  • Phen375

    great fitness points.



  • Olufunkesmith

    I think that Congress is depend in the Rahul gandhi for become a win the election .


  • ebonyadaring
  • Praveen Saxena

    The External Affairs establishment of GOI under UPA can boast of only one achievement to its credit ….success in orchestrating the boycott of Modi by the West..


  • JMK

    I don’t think there is that much importance to the meeting between Mr. Modi and Ms. Powell. Other countries do the same. Diplomats meet with leaders of ruling and opposition parties before elections. If Modi becomes the next prime minister, India’s foreign policy would not be any different. I cannot say for sure about internal policies.