May 18, 2014

Visa ban pushed Modi towards China, Japan

Kapil Dave & Harit Mehta,TNN | May 18, 2014, 04.05 AM IST

AHMEDABAD: A joke being circulated by BJP supporters: 2014 elections have proved one thing — a Gujarati can do anything to get a US visa. A direct reference obviously to the US government's decision to revoke Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's visa in March 2005 on the grounds that he violated religious freedom during the post-Godhra riots. 

UK and rest of the European Union immediately followed suit. Rattled only for a moment by the Western double-standards, Modi wasted no time in looking east, making friends and forging alliances with China, Japan and many other countries, including some Islamic ones, spread across Asia and Africa.

Of late, Wikileaks have captured the anxiety of western missions in the build-up to his becoming the prime minister. One leaked cable called him 'Modzilla'. Another quoted a political detractor about his unforgiving nature. Most western governments, which have since warmed up to him, do believe that Modi has been nursing a bruised ego.

As prime minister though, while he would be expected to show maturity and not allow the personal slight to over-ride national interests, he would certainly pay back the goodwill shown by countries which hosted graciously. And it does make sense to do business with Modi who is keen on forging an Asian axis with China and Japan.

In November 2011, by which time he was already emerging as a front-runner for 2014, China rolled out a red carpet for him. Breaking protocol, a limousine was allowed to go right up to the plane to receive him. Senior members of the Communist Party of China greeted him at the Great Hall of the People, an honour given only to heads of states and governments.

Seldom had a state level leader from India got such attention in the dragonland. But this was the culmination of several years of Modi's efforts to build bridges with China and all other countries which welcomed him with open arms. It was Modi's third visit to China after the US visa ban.

Japan has been another favourite, especially because of the country's interest in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial corridor — 40% of which passes through Gujarat. The leadership in Japan, a conservative country when it comes to investments abroad, is impressed with the port-led development in Gujarat and would like to set up huge industrial bases along the corridor.

No comments: