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Thursday, March 24, 2005

What is the big deal? - On Modi and the US Visa Rejection

The Prime Minister thinks that this is an issue important enough to make a statement, the foreign ministry had called some one from the U.S. Embassy to express their displeasure and Narendra Modi is on television booming and bellowing as though his citizenship in India has been revoked or something.

U.S. of A. is an Indian fantasy. A lecture tour in the US of A is fantasy enough to entice any Indian politician, businessman or academic. What great harm the Asian Hoteliers would suffer because Mr. Modi does not address them one is unable to comprehend.

US visa rejection became very strict post-Sept 11. A country that was only paranoid about illegal immigrants has additionally become paranoid about its own security with regard to immigrants since then. A friend who has spent considerable amount of time in the US got his visa rejected last year for no apparent reason, he opined that it could simply have to do with him going to meet the visa officer in the embassy wearing a long kurtah. That could be their level of paranoia.

There could be hundreds of people being rejected visas to USA for similar silly reasons. The government of India does not feel affronted with any of these happenings. This is one more rejection. So what if Modi happens to be the Chief Minister of a state in this country, what is the place of India in the US mind map anyway? We don’t command more than 1% of their market. Indian’s constitute a small minority of the ever carefully constituted American immigrant population. India doesn’t mean much to the USA more than Mauritius or Bangladesh. It is a country on the darker part of the world, maybe George W Bush knows that India is somewhere close to where Osama is currently residing. Ordinary Americans may not even know that much about India.

Modi’s visa being rejected is yet another silly American paranoia and nothing more. The Modis of India cannot be a threat to the Bushes in America, there is no match. We need to grant that despite its posture USA is a country that is scared about its own shadow and looks for enemies hidden deep inside the likes of Modi. A Modi who cannot even be sure of his position in his own party forget about his Chief Ministership. Remember this is a party which kept silent when its own Defense Minister was frisked by the US government. One wonders whether we would have even heard of this story if BJP was in power, this would have been buried under their own weight of collective shame.
The visa rejection is a reminder that the USA does not look at India as anything more than a consumer of its various products and aids and grants and a testing ground for some of its lesser exciting military hardware, GM crops and academics with goofy strategies for development. It is time that Indians stop giving unnecessary importance to their relations with the USA and start thinking more about what their relationship means to the countries that are more closer, countries where India and Indians are taken more seriously and to whom India (even if it means Modi) matters politically.

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