Influenced by public perception in India where the Congress stands exposed as a party with little future in the foreseeable future, the Obama administration had no qualms in cosying up to Modi
The fact that US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell has indicated that she will fly to Gandhinagar shortly to call on him can be interpreted as a sign of US acceptance of Modi’s position as the prime contender for the high office and of the fact that he can no longer be ignored.
With various opinion polls pointing to the distinct edge that the BJP and its allies have in the 2014 parliamentary polls and with European countries having ended a boycott of Modi months ago in recognition of his growing acceptability among the masses, the US has evidently realised that it could ill-afford not to befriend the Gujarat strongman.
In 2005, the United States had, under domestic laws related to human rights, denied him a visa, saying that the Gujarat chief minister was “responsible for the (lack of) performance of state institutions” during the 2002 communal riots in his state. Belatedly, the Obama administration realised that with the Supreme Court having cleared Modi of complicity in the 2002 riots after an extensive investigation monitored by the Apex Court, its virtual boycott of Modi had no feet to stand on.
The pro-Modi lobby in the US was getting stronger by the day as his popularity in India grew by leaps and bounds and by ignoring him, the ruling dispensation would have had to face consequences in the next presidential elections among ethnic Indian voters.
It is no secret that the anti-Modi campaign was bolstered by the Manmohan Singh government’s paranoid covert campaign against bête noire Modi, which painted him black for his purported role in the 2002 riots.
The increasing thrust of pro-Modi campaigners that the Congress Party was no less culpable for its role in the anti-Sikh riots in the aftermath of the assassination of Indira Gandhi than Modi was for being at the helm of the BJP as chief minister in Gujarat when the riots took place there, apparently made an impression on the US government slowly, but surely.
The Americans had been banking on Rahul Gandhi to resurrect the Congress and pose a befitting challenge to Modi and the BJP, but the disastrous showing of Rahul in the much-touted TV interview with Times Now’s Arnab Goswami convinced the Americans that Modi was leagues ahead of Rahul, whose depth in understanding matters political was very shallow and superficial and he was no match for Modi.
The events in the aftermath of the erstwhile Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s arrest and subsequent release by the US authorities in New York doubtlessly soured relations between the Congress Party and the US administration and the US apparently felt no longer impelled to continue to punish Narendra Modi to please the Indian government.
Influenced by public perception in India where the Congress stands exposed as a party with little future in the foreseeable future and its own considerable anger at India’s tough stand on the Khobragade affair, the Obama administration had no qualms in cosying up to Modi, whom it was avoiding for nearly nine years.
A US State Department official confirmed the appointment between Modi and Powell, saying, “This is part of our concentrated outreach to senior political and business leaders which began in November to highlight the US-India relationship.”
On the grant of a visa to Modi, the official said, “There has been no change in our longstanding visa policy. When individuals apply for a US visa, their applications are reviewed in accordance with US law and policy. We do not speculate about outcomes of that process.”
While the United States has little way of changing course on a visa unless Modi again applies to travel to that country, AFP has quoted a congressional aide as saying that the meeting with Powell would send a signal of US openness on the matter.
“A meeting with the ambassador could be a way of signalling, ‘You’ll get a visa,’ without having to say it, which she can’t,” the aide told AFP on condition of anonymity.
There can be little doubt that Narendra Modi has worked to a well-thought-out plan in his campaign to wrest the prime ministerial ‘gaddi.’ His well-calibrated effort to portray himself as a business-savvy leader who can champion India’s economy and tackle corruption has gone down well not only with the corporate sector in India, but also with the western nations and with the growth-focussed countries in Asia and the rest of the world.
That Modi has kept away from controversial issues of communal politics and has not even been mentioning the Ram mandir issue in his speeches has helped position him as a man wedded to growth and development.
While his stress on Gujarat’s rapid development has led him to be looked upon as too Gujarat-centric, the message has gone home at his various rallies that his thrust would be on economics if he comes to power.
It is also part of his conscious strategy that Modi is now focussing increasingly on solutions to the country’s problems of governance and not merely criticising the Manmohan Singh government or taking digs at the Sonia-Rahul Gandhi family.
Indeed, Narendra Modi is moving towards his goal with keen calculation. All his energies are focussed on positioning the BJP to get as close to the majority mark as possible so that the reliance on prospective allies may be minimised. Pragmatic as he is, he is acutely conscious that since he is unacceptable to most Muslims, parties that depend heavily on minority voteswould be wary of allying with him. His efforts to woo Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, Naveen Pattnaik’s BJD, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, among others, are not yielding the kind of results that he was optimistic about. All his bargaining skills will need to be harnessed in the post-poll scenario if the BJP is to come good.
As for the Americans, they work according to what they regard as their enlightened self-interest. They will adapt to any regime and with ties with India currently at a low ebb, they would not be averse to trying out a BJP-led dispensation.