By Amartya Prasad
It seems like yesterday that the US refused the Gujarat Chief Minister and formidable PM candidate, Narendra Modi a Visa and severed all contact with him. This 9 year boycott however came to an end on Thursday, the 13th of February, 2014.
On Thursday, Nancy Powell, US ambassador to India went down to Gandhinagar and met with Narendra Modi, thus signaling the end of the 9-Year Boycott.
In 2005, Narendra Modi applied for a diplomatic visa to the US. The US refused this request. Additionally, the US revoked his existing Tourist and Business Visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act which makes a foreign government official who is responsible for particularly severe violations of religious freedom ineligible for an American visa. The US and much of the Western world considered Narendra Modi as chiefly responsible for the massacre of over 2000 odd Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, which broke out as a reaction to the Godhra incident in which a bogey of a train full of Karsevaks (Hindu Devotees) set on fire that killed 50 Hindus.
It was widely believed that the BJP government in Gujarat with Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister failed to effectively protect the minority community. Presumably, this was the primary reason for the US refusing him a Visa.
It seems that US policy vis-à-vis NaMo changed in the wake of pressures from several big business house, both Indian and American, with business interests in India, given the large market as a result of the huge population and the fact that the prominent surveys have been projecting Modi as the next democratic leader of this massive population.
The implicit intention behind the meeting of the US Ambassador with NaMo was to re-establish and restore cordial relations with the Gujarat CM before the upcoming Lok Sabha given the extensive business interests that the US has in India. And the US realizes that it is best to mend fences with Mr. Modi, a possible future Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world.
This reveals how actions and policies of the US Government are guided/governed by national interests and not right or wrong. Even back in 2005, when the US rejected NaMo a visa, it was on the grounds that the US could not afford to antagonize Islamic nations(since Modi was seen as Anti-Muslim).
This is in contrast with India’s stand with regard to international issues. India’s policy has always been in favour of what is right, even if it is against its own interests, for instance, its Non-Aligned position during the cold war years.
Therefore I believe India should be more pragmatic and focus on advancing its own national interests rather than merely projecting itself as righteous.