The US’s long history of being the champion of human rights, an advocacy that has led it to play a proactive role around the world, is well-known. What is perhaps equally well-known is its long history of dealing with dictators, autocrats and strongmen who violate those very rights. Often, the two opposing impulses—its ideology forcing it to safeguard fundamental rights and its pragmatism stemming from “what serves national interest best”—have posed serious challenges for its foreign policy. It faces a similar challenge today from Gujarat’s controversial chief minister and BJP leader Narendra Modi.
For nearly a decade, Modi has both appalled and fascinated US politicians, diplomats, businessmen and scholars. Aware of his alleged role in ’02 for masterminding a pogrom against Muslims in which more than two thousand innocent people were killed, the US government revoked his visa in 2005. The Gujarat CM earned the distinction of being the only elected Indian leader to be barred from entering the US. But as a three-time chief minister, with the possibility of winning a fourth consecutive term in office, Modi has also caught the attention of the Americans with all the talk about him transforming his state into an economic dynamo. Under his helmsmanship, Gujarat has been attracting investments from across the world and succeeding in showcasing itself as a destination for business and economic growth.
So, is the US seriously pondering over the (very practical) question of how to deal with Modi?
Two profiles of the Gujarat chief minister—one on the cover of Time magazine, the other on the Brookings Institution blog—seem to suggest so. Both profiles have generated a heated debate both in India and elsewhere. His supporters see it as a “long overdue” recognition in US, while his detractors regard it as the handiwork of his PR agency and lobby firm to refurbish his image.
“How long can you go on boycotting him?” asks former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh, by way of explaining the dilemma before the US over Modi. He says the profiles reflect the “pragmatism of the American business community”.
But Modi’s rising stocks in the US may not be linked only to Gujarat: many American commentators have started regarding him as the future face of India and probably its next prime minister.
“But when others think of someone who can bring India out of the mire of chronic corruption and inefficiency, of a firm, no-nonsense leader who will set the nation on a course of development that might finally put it on a par with China, they look at Modi,” says the Time (Asia edition) cover story, titled Modi means business, but can he lead India?
The Brookings blog has an equally intriguing title—India’s most admired and most feared politician: Narendra Modi, and though it talks about his role in the massacre of the Muslims in Gujarat, it heaps lavish praise on him for Gujarat’s economic success.
The Indian American Muslim Council of the US sees it as an attempt by Modi’s PR and lobbying firm, APCO Worldwide, to “whitewash” his image in the West. “It’s unfortunate that reputed institutions like Brookings and Time seem to be playing into the hands of APCO propaganda,” Shaheen Khateeb, the Council’s president, told Outlook.
The US fascination with Modi is not new; it has been there for some years. In April 2009, The Atlantic ran a story on Modi, hinting that he could well be the next PM, while last September the US Congressional Research Service report described Modi’s Gujarat as the “best example of effective governance and impressive development” in India. But the communal taint continues to haunt Modi, as was evident during during Wednesday’s US congressional hearing on challenges facing minorities in India, where sections argued in favour of continuing the travel ban on the Gujarat chief minister.
However, with the Congress in disarray and possible new players coming on the scene, there is a growing need in the US to know them. William Antholis of Brookings, who wrote the blog on Modi as part of a series of profiles of new Indian leaders, says, “I am not advocating for Modi or Chavan or Nitish or Jayalalitha” or assessing whether they should be PM. “I am telling American policymakers that they should pay attention to these leaders and what is happening in the states,” Antholis told Outlook.
Gujarat’s Narendra Modi definitely has a headstart over other leaders. Whether he becomes the next PM or plays a key role in the next government in New Delhi are important questions for the US. But before soon, they may have to decide how to engage with Modi.
Apropos Bastion of Business: A Modish Affair, Modi takes tough decisions. Denying him merit on account of frivolous charges is not done—the only evidence against him is the word of certain people who say he convened a meeting at which police were told to go easy on Hindu rioters.
Cry yourself hoarse, but 10 years on, despite all attempts to nail Modi, he is not even close to being charged!
One way of gaining favour in the West is to be anti-Islamic. Hence Modi in Time.
Nasar Ahmed, Karikkudi
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
In certain areas of the Muslim-dominated old city of Hyderabad, no Hindu procession is allowed to be taken for fear of communal violence breaking out - the excuse trotted out by the police is that Muslims will be provoked. During Ganesh Chaturthi, processions are stoned from inside mosques, and the police simply won't enter these mosques because that would provoke Muslims. Posters are not allowed to be pasted on walls, because that would again provoke Muslims. So much for the oppressed Muslim!!!
>> I think our record of indigenous communal violence is a little broader than that. For eg, Bombay 1992-92
Ah but you were not talking about Bombay now, were you? Like all good jehadis, you kept your focus on "Gujarat-like pogroms".
And let's pretend that there were no recent damaging of Ram Naumi posters in Andhra, or stoning of a Ram Naumi procession in Gaya. Saying such things is a sure sign of communalism.
"Tau why would you support the equivalent, Hindutva, in India? '
Tau -is above Religious identities and Religion .Only one friend here when cornered honours me with Sangh Ratan.
But honestly by the way can you elaborate why and other Muslim friends are tounge tied about Waqf land loot ? Honestly it intrigues me .
2. My answere is No Hindu Rashtra !
But my simultaneously honest and humble request to Secus is don't provoke Hindus endlessly as they have started seeing Modi as the ultimate answer and solution for removing poverty,corruption ,endless discrimination against Hindus and Vote Bank Politics.
Don't take Hindus granted any more .They are slowly but definitely changing .
The more you carry on this anti Modi campaign the more Hindus feel Modi is the ultimate answer for the past Historical injustices and humiliations .Isn't strange that Hindus now feel persecuted in India ?? But Hindus feel so .Don't fall for the loaded answers not all but a few Sanghis say so.Better see the stark reality on ground .
Tell me honestly can Muslims rise in life and social ladder without the co-operation of the Hindu majority ? Rulers are after your Votes and Hindus who can help you them you don't trust .So how the salvation will come for the Muslims ?? Kindly explain how ??
And ultimately once Hindus decide they will Vote Modi as PM.It will be sooner than later .
So not the old Tau Ghai but Farukis of India are hastening Hindu Rashtra .
Please re-examine what you all are doing .
[[Arrey bhai, if you are trying to go to the UK to find justification for the rape and murder of Muslim women in Gujarat, then I think you've run out of sane arguments.]]
You cook up all sorts of excuses that point a finger at Hindu oppression for the backwardness of Indian Muslims in India, so naturally I cited examples from where Hindus are not a factor. If you interpret that as your victory and feel great about it, who am I to stop you?
@ AK Ghai - you seem to be making an argument that a national identity based on religion is problematic. I would agree with you - it's intrinsically corrupting and unstable. Tau why would you support the equivalent, Hindutva, in India? Regards
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