The big debate right now in America is whether to hand more visas to Indian techies who want to study or live in the United States. But the issue that dominated the news cycle in India last week concerned the visa of one man: Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the state of Gujarat, who wants to do neither.
Modi is the current favorite for prime minister for India's main opposition party. He is also a Hindu nationalist on whose watch the worst pogrom of Muslims happened, prompting the U.S. along with other Western countries to ban him from obtaining a visa eight years ago.
His fiercely loyal supporters are campaigning the Obama administration to lift the ban—and his opponents are equally fiercely campaigning to maintain the ban. Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia examines what the U.S. should do in The Daily Beast.
[W]hy does Modi covet an American visa, given that unabashed love for the motherland is a central plank of his politics? It is not because Modi is desperate to visit Disneyland…
It is because the Hindu nationalist project involves just changing the perception of Hinduism as a weak religion at home but abroad as well…
Modi, a fire-brand Hindu, is perfect for the job—except that he can't do it so long as he remains a pariah on the international stage. Obtaining a U.S. visa is an important step in rehabilitating himself in the West.
All of this puts the United States in a difficult predicament. Should Modi become the elected prime minister of India next year, it would be awkward for the head of the world's most populous democracy—and an American ally—not to be able to travel to America. At that point, an ongoing ban will become a slap in the face not just of Modi and his backers, but of India.
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