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Biden Visits India, Studiously Avoids Modi

Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at the Mumbai stock exchange was chock-full of colorful flattery and ambitious rhetoric: “Imagine what our two countries can achieve together, not only for one another but for the economic and political stability of the region,” he told the packed auditorium, as the NYT reports. “It is time we take this relationship to a new level to achieve our shared vision.”

Biden arrived in India on Monday, the first trip by an American vice president in almost thirty years. He visited with top politicians from the ruling Congress Party and Sushma Swaraj, the head of the opposition BJP party. But one person he isn’t going to see is Narendra Modi, the controversial Chief Minister of Gujarat, all but certain to be the BJP’s candidate for prime minister in next year’s elections.

Modi still cannot get a visa to travel to the United States, and American leaders usually avoid him on visits to India (although a delegation of American lawmakers met with him in March). Rajnath Singh, the president of the BJP, came to the US this week to urge Washington to lift its ban on Modi. A group of 65 Indian parliamentarians sent a letter imploring the US to refuse. So far there have been no hints that the Obama administration is willing to change the tune.

Biden’s visit and the push to lift Modi’s travel ban come in the midst of a nasty turn in the Indian elections. The Congress Party, Victor Mallet writes for the Financial Times, has kicked off its election campaign in the usual manner: “by promising cheap food for voters and suggesting that BJP leaders, especially Mr Modi, are religious extremists.” Rajnath Singh, on the other hand, claimed that Modi was the “one single leader with national appeal,” a swipe at Congress’s presumed prime ministerial candidate and the 43 year-old scion of India’s ruling family, Rahul Gandhi.

Because Congress’s national popularity has waned over the past few years as a result of one corruption scandal after another and weakening economic growth, Modi’s star is rising, along with his party’s. His business-friendly policies and Gujarat’s amazing economic growth have won him a lot of friends in the international arena and boosted his popularity at home. The US could eventually find itself in the very uncomfortable position of having to repair ties with Modi, a divisive politician whom Washington has done its best to avoid over the years. But don’t count Congress out yet. And as Mallet warns, don’t forget that India’s political landscape is a very complicated place: “There are so many differences within each of the two main alliances that no one can predict with confidence who will be the next prime minister or to what party he or she will belong.” This, says Mallet, “is one of the triumphs of India’s chaotic but vigorous democracy.”

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  • wigwag

    Is the Obama Administration’s foreign policy more stupid or more venal?

    I think it’s hard to know.

    But there are some things that we do know. We know that Egypt’s former President, Mohamed Morsi urged Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for Jews and Zionists” We also know that he described Zionists as “these bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians, these war mongers, these descendants of apes and pigs…”

    Did Obama, Biden or anyone else in the Administration avoid Morsi the way that they are avoiding Modi?

    Of course not. Instead, Obama and his Ambassador to Egypt did everything they could to try to talk the military out of overthrowing Morsi. Just yesterday, the Administration delayed the delivery of four F-16s to the Egyptian military as a show of displeasure that Morsi hasn’t been released.

    While Morsi was in power, tens of millions of Egyptians literally faced the prospect of watching their children starve yet neither the threat of mass starvation or disgustingly anti Semitic comments by the Egyptian President was enough to deter Obama and Biden from doing everything they could to insure that he would remain in office.

    Yet they won’t talk with Modi.

    Then there’s the case of Obama’s best friend, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey. Erdogan may be a more discrete hater of Jews than Morsi, but his hatred is no more difficult to discern for anyone not deliberately averting his eyes.

    Erdogan has said,

    “Israel is inexplicably cruel, against innocent Palestinians, hiding behind the Nazi Holocaust and seeking victimhood…”

    He’s also said,

    “Today, the image of the Jews is no different than that of the Nazis.”


    “the international media does not fully report Israel’s “murder of innocent children” because “the world media is under the control of Israel, and this needs to be emphasized.”

    of course Erdogan has also resorted to the most famous of all anti Semitic tropes,

    “Wherever Jews settle, they make money.”

    Just three months ago, Erdogan compared o Zionism to a war crime and he implied that the Jews were behind the recent demonstrations in Turkey and Brazil.

    Has any of this induced Obama and Biden to give Erdogan the full Modi treatment?

    Nope; Erdogan and Obama are still the best of friends.

    None of this is to say that Modi is blameless for the Gujarat riots; he isn’t. But Modi isn’t the only political figure in the history of the world to fail to stop a race riot. In New York, in the early 1990s we experienced the Crown Heights Riots where blacks, incensed by the accidental death of young boy killed by a car driven in a motorcade of a famous Rabbi murdered Jews and vandalized their property. All under the watchful eye of Mayor Dinkins who did nothing to stop the violence.

    For more on Modi and the Crown Heights Riots, see Peter Berger’s recent post here,

    Dinkins’ failures were comparable to Modi’s but has the Administration ostracized the former New York Mayor?
    Nope, David Dinkins was invited to both Obama inaugurations.
    At some point, perhaps someone will ask the President or the Vice President, while they are willing to excuse the anti Semitic rantings of the likes of Morsi or Erdogan while at the same time they are so wary of the man who could easily turn out to be the next Prime Minister of India.
    My conclusion is that the Obama Administration’s interaction with the Islamic world is not only delusional, it’s repulsive.

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