In addition to failing to diminish the popularity of the man expected to become India’s next Prime Minister, the Obama Administration’s ham-handed attempt to influence India’s upcoming national election appears to have backfired following the recent announcement that the U.S. was relaxing visa restrictions on tourists with known terrorist contacts.
The Obama Administration was not only preventing any formal U.S. contact with Narendra Modi, leader of the conservative, pro-free market, and pro-American BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), it also banned him from visiting the United States.
Last week’s announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that the U.S. would start welcoming visitors who have contacts with known terrorists while at the same time refusing to permit one of India’s leading politicians, and a pro-American one at that, to visit the U.S. caused such an uproar on the sub-continent that the Obama Administration was forced to repudiate and reverse its boycott against Modi.
Shadowed by hordes of Indian reporters, U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell conveyed the reversal and apology in person after traveling last Thursday to Gandhinagar, the capital city of Gujarat state, India’s western state that has elected Modi as the Chief Minister three times. Powell announced the ban on contact with him lifted and formally invited Gujarat’s Chief Minister to visit the United States. With 65 million people, Gujarat is bigger than both France and Italy and is more than twice the size of California.
The meeting came just months before national elections to India’s lower house of Parliament which is expected to elect the BJP, which Modi leads.
The initial, limited bans on contacts with Modi started in 2005, during the Bush Administration, following sectarian violence in Gujarat in which 97 Muslims were killed. Modi, who had just been elected Chief Minister of Gujarat, denied any wrong-doing. None of the subsequent investigations and inquests into the violence uncovered any evidence against Modi although one of his ministers was jailed on charges of incitement. Rather than resuming relations with Modi like the EU, the UN, and most NGO’s did, the Obama Administration doubled down against Modi, rescinding his visa and claiming he was responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom”.
This latest Obama Administration diplomatic debacle raises more questions about what kind of oversight, if any, actually exists inside the State Department, which continues to refuse any outside efforts to limit or restrict its sole and full control over and all management and departmental investigations.