Nine years ago, needless fuss was made when it was revealed that the US had denied Narendra Modi a visa due to his alleged role in the 2002 riots. The Congress Party in particular had gloated over the US action. Indeed, some suspected that the US action was meant to please the UPA Government more than to register protest at the riots under Modi’s watch. After all, when had the human rights record of a foreign ruler obliged the US to sever ties with him? As always, for the US its national interest came first, everything else, including the defence of human rights, later. It was most unfortunate that in its single-minded obsession with Modi, the Congress Party welcomed the gratuitous US intervention in the domestic politics of the country. Modi had not sought the visa then. Nor has he sought one now. But if the US is now keen to seek him out, there is every reason to believe that Washington is keen to mend ties with the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP. Neither Modi nor the BJP should attach much significance to the decision of the US Ambassador in India, Nancy Powell, to meet him on Thursday. The US is not doing him a favour. In fact, it might well be doing itself a favour in view of the fact that it seemed keen to make amends for its wholly unacceptable decision to boycott Modi in the first place. Foreign governments cannot arrogate to themselves the right to judge the domestic conduct of leaders of friendly countries. That task is best left to the people and the courts of the respective countries. Just as India cannot haul up US leaders for the right royal mess created by it in Iraq and Afghanistan, with fully-documented reports of grave human rights violations, the US cannot sit on a high horse, issuing clean chits to leaders of foreign countries. Even when the UN seeks to play that role, it does that after due consideration of all facts and after hearing various parties involved. And the US is not the UN. This is neither the place nor the occasion to emphasise that were the US to apply the same standard uniformally and hold the incumbent leader guilty for every riot, it would have boycotted all Indian prime ministers. For, riots far more vicious in intensity and magnitude of death and destruction than the 2002 Gujarat riots have occurred under the watch of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, etc. Which is why we suspect that the amateurishness of the then US Ambassador in New Delhi was behind the well-publicised denial of visa to Modi in 2005, even though he had not even asked for one. If now the US is at pains to reach out to Modi, it may well be because it perceives that soon it might have to deal with him as he makes a concerted bid for prime ministership. The lead of the EU and Britain which too had reached out to Modi last year might have inspired the US decision to retrace its steps. In fact, the US could argue that after the clean chit to Modi by the courts and the Apex Court-appointed Special Investigating Team its misgivings about his role in the riots had been duly allayed and it was ready to welcome him to the US.
Meanwhile, is it too much to expect that the supposedly Oxbridge-educated Salman Khurshid would not disgrace the high office of the Minister of External Affairs by using the language of the gutter in public? His description of the 2002 riots as `worse than Holocaust’ and of Modi as a demon shows either a diseased or an ignorant man lacking the minimum courtesies of a civilised human being. A few other UPA ministers also found it hard to hide their unhappiness at the scheduled meeting of the US Ambassador with Modi. The spectre of Modi haunts them day and night and they seem to find it hard to play it by the conventional rules of politics. They had hoped that the Americans’ boycott of Modi would somehow help them contain his challenge; now the Congress leaders already come across as a defeated and dejected lot. Dragging outsiders into the domestic political battles militates against all canons of decency.