Fiasco of Modi at Wharton
Rajeev Srinivasan on March 5, 2013
Now that it is official – Narendra Modi is no longer invited by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School to their India Economic Forum to be a keynote speaker – it occurs to me that the whole thing could have been foreseen. Indeed, I was mildly surprised when I first heard Modi had accepted the invitation – what about his visa, I thought to myself. In fact, I thought this whole thing was going to end in a fiasco, remembering how Subramanian Swamy had been summarily despatched by Harvard, and how Witzel has mocked Indians.
The outcome could not possibly have been any different, considering the dramatis personae – the Left-lib types in academe, the religious fundamentalists, the US Government, and the Government of India. All of them have acted perfectly rationally, as per their points of view and their objectives.
First, the leftists. The Left-lib types are on the ascendant in US universities, and they are feeling their oats as their favorite, Barack Obama, handily won election last year, and has appointed two Atlanticists as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence. It is not a conjecture that the halls of academe tend to be full of very Left-leaning people, who are far more leftist than the average citizen. This is as true of the US as it is of India.
In India, I have been appalled at the kinds of opinions held by faculty at one of the most prestigious colleges in the country, where I taught for a while. These people were dismissive of points of view that did not fit with their comfortable axioms; I also suspected they got their views by just listening to some TV anchor – it was so superficial and incoherent. And this at a top-rated school; I dread to think of what it must be in lesser schools.
At Stanford, I have found a palpable hostility to Indian, specifically Hindu, interests. Now Stanford, partly because of the gravitational pull of the conservative Hoover Institution on campus, is relatively less leftist. Yet, there too there is animosity – it is perhaps the conservative Christian hostility to anything other than its own dogma. In any case, a clique of far-leftists, including an execrable group of Indian communists, have hijacked the agenda there. Most Indian-origin people invited to lecture there are fiercely anti-Hindu, if not anti-India too.
So you can't win. It is either the holy-rollers intent on 'saving' the pagans by taking their land away from them; or it is the leftists intent on spreading their wacky ideas for world conquest. Christopher Hitchens, in another context, quoted Dante Allighieri who said that "the Pope was fornicating with the Emperor". Similarly, here it is the communists fornicating with the fundamentalists. India is the easiest target as it is full of fifth columnists.
Second, the Islamists. They, too, see themselves on a winning note in the US, as they have an immense, and rather baffling, ability to intimidate, browbeat, or guilt-trip people, as and when required. There are entities such as CAIR that forcefully push the Islamist agenda. Besides, if the stick doesn't work, there is always the carrot. Just look at how much petro-money Islamists are willing to throw around, especially on campuses – Faigate, anyone?
Let us also remember that it was a Hyderabad, India-born Muslim librarian at MIT who spearheaded the earlier campaign to deny Modi a visa to the US. He was attached to the Aga Khan Foundation. The idea of keeping the Modi/Gujarat riots issue alive is to reinforce their positioning of Muslims as 'victims' almost by definition. And we all know that Westerners, ignorant of the situation on the ground, can be induced to support ridiculous positions if these positions are well-marketed: As happened in the case of Binayak Sen, saint and healer.
Third, the US Government. Obama has decided that all his vaunted bipartisanism is for the birds, now that he never has to stand for election again. His brinksmanship on the sequester, as well as his naming of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel shows that Obama does not plan to compromise (of course except where he is forced to).
It is a fact that America has been defeated in Afghanistan, or is pretty close to it. They have to declare victory and run like hell. It has become a tar baby for them, and they simply want to exit, having accomplished nothing other than spending a trillion dollars and having thousands of their soldiers die. They want to walk away, and the simplest thing to do is to leave Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the Pakistanis.
Of course, the Americans brought about their dependence on Pakistan through their own orneriness. If they had not been so dogmatic about Iran (okay, admittedly Iran is a dubious ally, but it is not possible to find a more dubious 'ally' than Pakistan) they could have cut Pakistan out of the loop entirely by approaching Afghanistan from the west. As things stand, they have to swallow their pride, even though it is plain as daylight that Islamabad is playing a double game, and mollify Pakistan.
And what is the Americans' favorite mechanism to please Pakistan? Why, giving them Kashmir (that was Chuck Hagel's preferred solution as he held forth in a Press conference). The small matter that Kashmir is not theirs to give away is a minor detail. Nor does it matter to them that, like Oliver Twist, Pakistan will never be satisfied, but will keep asking for more.
Finally, the Government of India. In many respects, it is the real culprit. It may well be happy that this issue is diverting attention away from the many scams coming to light, and also from the rather brutal Budget that was presented just a few days ago. Very convenient to act all pristine and chaste and feign injured innocence. It may even have initiated this diversionary tactic. Well, even if it didn't, it is quite capable of diversionary tactics – remember how the gravely ill rape-victim was flown to Singapore to divert attention.
The Government of India, specifically the Congress, is also demonstrating that it remains deathly scared of Narendra Modi. They have tried every trick in the book, and even set up an official Dirty Tricks Department (or words to that effect) to denigrate Modi. Their attempts at tejovadham are going nowhere, but they do not let up on the constant propaganda. They have at their service a truly motley crew of characters: Angry Dancer, Police Officer 1.0 and 2.0, Ex-Babu-Now-Saint, and the allegedly Witness-Coaching Activist who was told to keep away from their locality by the victims who were allegedly being helped.
The irony is that this may become one of those stories with unintended consequences. The real losers may well be the Left-lib types. I am reminded of Oliver Goldsmith's 'Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog': This may come back to bite the Left-libs' posteriors. Here is what the elegy says:
But soon a wonder came to light,
That showed the rogues they lied:
The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died.
That may well be the epitaph of the story. It is Wharton, and the Left-libs and their fundamentalist pals that are facing the fallout. The serenely unconcerned Modi may well benefit from this incident, wherein he was plainly wronged.