Some Indian’s don’t like America or President Bush. Unless India intends to put up a Soviet-style welcome, they need not be told to shut up.
So Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya of West Bengal, the Communist party leader most non-Communists find agreeable, said some nasty things about President Bush. That invited a stern lecture on the virtues of civility from the Indian Express, which inferred that the Communist Party of India’s bad manners is a ‘reflection of India’s institutional maturity’.
Chief Minister Bhattacharya’s remarks are certainly bad form. His comments are more likely to be motivated by the approaching assembly elections than by ideological convictions. It is just as well that democracies do not let protocol or political correctness come in the way of the freedom of expression of their citizens. In the hoopla over the United States’ refusal to issue a visa to Narendra Modi, who as the elected chief minister of an Indian state is a constitutional officer, The Acorn defended America’s decision as being within its rights.
The behaviour of Indian politicians should hardly surprise anyone, not least the Americans, who themselves are no strangers to such patterns of behaviour. The Communists, exploiting their parliamentary leverage, have at every opportunity stalled or negated the economic reform agenda (whoever remembers those ‘second-generation reforms’ anymore?). They have also connived in the re-emergence of Maoist/Naxalist terrorism across the breadth of India. Their meddling in foreign policy has resulted in the blunting of India’s positions on everything from non-proliferation to military cooperation to relations with neighbouring countries. Bad manners towards a visiting head of state, therefore, ranks somewhere near the bottom in the list of their sins.
How much the Communists with their anti-American rhetoric are out of sync with the rest of India is revealed by a recent survey on global attitudes towards America. Indians, it appeared, bucked the general international trend and came out to be very favourably disposed towards the United States. By opening his mouth in the manner that he has, Bhattacharya has shown the Indian public where he stands. Like the Indian Express, many people would no doubt have noticed the uncivility. The newspaper would do well to remind voters of this the next time they get to vote.
In the meantime, there’s no need to put up a choreographed public welcome, with flag-waving children lining up the streets, to welcome the honoured guest. That happens only in Communist-ruled countries.