The United States was within its rights to revoke Narendra Modi’s visa. But it is about politics not principle.
The lesson for India is simple — globalisation is unforgiving. Narendra Modi’s sins — of omission and commission — were not sufficiently addressed by the Indian political and judicial systems. The vicious brand of communal politics practised by Narendra Modi may have been popular enough in Gujarat to have won him a second term as chief minister, but many Indians were appalled. And it did not go unnoticed in the rest of the world. But it is not just Modi who is responsible for reducing the arson in Godhra and the wider carnage that it triggered into yet another political football — there is hardly a quarter in India’s political system that, post-Godhra, comes out with clean hands.
In spite of the severity of the damage caused by Modi and what he came to represent in the immediate aftermath of the violence, he ended up receiving no more than a mild rap on his knuckles. Even as Modi remained unrepentent, his sins are steadily diffusing into the smelly canvas of Indian politics, with every chance that he, like his equally sinning ‘secular’ counterparts, would live a long and happy life without having to be brought to account for their failings. Unfortunately, this process is not quite guaranteed to work in a globalised world.
Modi’s visa was denied under the International Religious Freedom Act that was passed by the US Congress in 1998 and strengthened in 2004 by the Intelligence Reform Act that gives the American president the authority to delay, deny, or cancel visits by a foreign citizen who ‘while serving as a foreign government official, was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom.’
In a statement the State Department said: ‘On March 18, 2005, the Government of the United States revoked a visa held by the Chief Minister of Gujarat pursuant to Section 212(a)(2)(G) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act which prohibits the admission to the United States of any foreign government official believe to have responsibility for serious violations of religion freedom.‘ [Rediff, emphasis added]
While the United States is within its rights to deny entry to Narendra Modi, it is equally true that its motivations were more political than matters of principle. President Bush would himself a very lonely host if his State department were to uniformly and impartially apply this law. Both close allies such as Ariel Sharon, Crown Prince Abdullah and Gen Pervez Musharraf, and strategic partners such as Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao are at least as guilty as Modi. Worse, apart from Ariel Sharon and perhaps Vladimir Putin, none of them are even accountable to their own citizens.
That’s the other cliche about globalisation — it works both ways. Nobody who ever touches Narendra Modi comes out looking good. That list now includes the Bush administration, and yes, the Acorn too.