Sunday, May 18, 2014

The People vs. the Coalition against Genocide

At the end it was one phone call from the leader of the free world, a liberal with impeccable qualifications, which settled the score. Indeed it can be argued that in a nightmare scenario, it is democracy which has defeated the liberals (not to forget, Modi won three elections in Gujarat as well).

The bitter truth is that there is no vote bank for liberal ideologies. The liberals know this very well. This is why many liberals are fond of Stalin and Mao, because like mushrooms they can prosper only in an un-democratic, mandarin governed, national akademy kind of environment toiling under the benevolent gaze of a dictator. Alternatively there are the pale-faced humanities departments in the West which aim to exclude people with a diversity of opinions (read conservative, religious) using the sword of tenure (which is now thankfully disappearing).

India, as a number of wise people have observed, looks right now as a mirror image of Pakistan. Well that is not quite true, the Army does not rule India (but it has a veto). About five thousand Hindus per year are reportedly leaving Pakistan for India, there is no such (not yet) migration of muslims from India to Pakistan. Also, India does not have the death penalty for blasphemy (and no votes for this), and to the extent there is an intolerant hammer, it is deployed equally in favor of conservative Muslims and Hindus (ex-communication of Salman Rushdie, Tasleema Nasreen and MF Husain, all of them muslims).

What is certainly true is that Indian muslims have (temporarily) lost their voice and the power of their vote (due to the peculiarities of the first-past-the-post system). This goes against the promise that a great man had made during Partition I, that muslims will be kings in Pakistan and king-makers in India. Again it can be argued that while this strategy has served some muslims very well, for the majority of the population of the sub-continent, dividing communities (and inciting sectarian hatred) for short-term gain has not worked out so well. There are no saints and all groups have indulged in (state-sponsored, community sponsored) genocide.  

If liberal groups such as the CAG want to gain more popular support for their get-Modi cause (and it is no doubt a very good cause), they should find a stronger voice in condemning the atrocities of Direct Action Day which illuminated the path of winning hearts and minds through polarization of people who have co-existed for centuries. 

A single phone call that went out from the White House to Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi close to midnight on Friday erased nearly a decade of stigma that Washington had heaped on the BJP leader, ostensibly for his role in not quickly containing the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002.

The conversation between President Obama and "candidate" Modi, as the White House characterized him, was short and to-the-point. After congratulating him for leading the BJP to victory in the general election, Obama pointedly invited him to visit Washington to advance bilateral ties between the two countries, which were too important to be allowed to drift.

The President noted, the White House said later in a read-out of the call, that he looks forward to working closely with Modi to fulfill the "extraordinary promise" of the US-India strategic partnership. Modi evidently agreed, and the readout said "they agreed to continue expanding and deepening the wide-ranging cooperation between our two democracies."

There was no mention of visas, boycotts, or a decade of Washington's blacklisting of Modi aggravated repeatedly by what one enraged BJP factotum described as "dim-witted lower officials with little idea of political and diplomatic realities." Underpinning the phone-call was the US desire to 'reset' ties with Modi, while recognizing that the stupendous majority the Indian electorate had lavished on him trumped any human rights campaign a small left-wing clique had mounted against him, with the prospect of holding US-India ties hostage in its wake.

In fact, officials pointed out that President Obama went a step further than the State Department in reaching out to Prime Minister designate Modi, inviting him to Washington DC, when he could well have said he looked forward to meeting him in the days to come — as they possibly could in various multi-lateral fora over the next few months. But clearly, the White House is ahead of the curve compared to the bureaucracy-driven State Department when it comes to pressing the reset button.

In fact, the State Department continued to be "rule-bound" in its approach and language even after the White House outreach. "The Prime Minister of India will be welcomed to the United States. As head of government, Mr Modi would be eligible for an A-1 visa," spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement that implicitly suggested that as an individual, Modi could still be persona non-grata.

That impression was strengthened by the reaction from human rights clique that has campaigned against Modi in the US, including a so-called Coalition Against Genocide. "CAG has been in the forefront of maintaining the US visa ban on Modi, and we are proud of having stood up for truth and justice," a CAG spokesperson said, adding that "A possible visit to the US by Modi on a diplomatic visa, in his capacity as the Prime Minister does not negate the earlier ban and the fact that he is culpable for the egregious and systematic human rights abuses."

But for now, the Indian electorate has forced Washington's hand. "Congrats to @narendramodi and BJP. Look forward to working w/you/growing shared prosperity/security w/world's largest democracy," tweeted secretary of State John Kerry, tagging the PM-designate even as the scale of Modi's victory became clear. As far as BJP and Modi supporters are concerned, he also needed to tag his minions in the state department.



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