Following the announcement of his election victory in India last Friday, India’s Prime Minister-elect took to his Twitter page to thank the many nations and world leaders who were quick to offer their congratulations on his massive, landslide win.
To name but a few, Modi thanked by name the presidents and Prime Ministers of great-power countries like Shinzo Abe of Japan, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Australia’s Tony Abbott, Stephen Harper of Canada, and David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain. He also thanked by name the leaders of smaller states closer to home like Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Conspicuously absent from that first batch of countries and leaders that Mr. Modi thanked by name were Barack Obama and the United States of America. India’s aggressive and unfettered media was quick to notice and jump on the omission. As if to make it crystal clear that it was indeed no omission or mistake at all, Mr. Modi returned to his Twitter page later that to thank, not President Obama, but rather U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry:
@JohnKerry Thank you Mr. Kerry. We will strengthen relations between our 2 vibrant democracies in the years to come.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 19, 2014
Perhaps it is because the charismatic, 63-year devotee of free markets, self-reliance, and national pride has little interest to go out of his way to extend courtesies to an American president who for nearly six years refused to even permit him to visit the United States by denying him a travel visa.
In 2002, just weeks after taking office as Chief Minister of Gujarat, India’s richest and fastest-growing state, the anti-Muslim violence that erupted following news that a train carrying Hindu pilgrims had been attacked and more than 30 pilgrims killed by Muslim rioters resulted in the deaths of more than 1000 people, most of whom were Muslim.
The US State Department, then under President George W. Bush, as well as much of Europe blamed the riots on Modi. In 2005 the US followed several European states that had imposed a travel ban on Modi. However, nearly all the countries that did restrict his travel quickly rescinded those bans. Rather than loosening such restrictions, President Obama intensified them in what many Indian observers believed was a deliberate attempt to interfere in Indian domestic politics on behalf of the socialist and long-dominant Congress Party.
A recent Pew poll measuring Indian attitudes toward the United States shows that India is one of the most pro-American countries in the world. Fifty-six percent of Indians polled through January of 2014 viewed the United States “favorably,” with more than four times as many people in India thinking that good relations with United States are vital to India’s national interests – 42% – as in China – 9%.