New Delhi | 19th Apr 2014
S President Barack Obama has quietly reversed a policy initiated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to "get Narendra Modi" — ostensibly for the 2002 Gujarat riots, but in actuality "for taking stands that may be different from that favoured by the US administration" — in the words of a senior analyst in New York.
"Hillary Clinton likes to operate through NGOs, which are given funding through indirect channels, and which target individuals and countries seen as less than respectful to her views on foreign and domestic policy in the target countries," a retired US official now based in Atlanta said. He claimed that "rather than US NGOs, (the former) Secretary of State Clinton favoured operating through organisations based in the Netherlands, Denmark and the Scandinavian countries, especially Norway" as these were outside the radar of big power politics. These NGOs were active in the agitation against the Russian nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, with "funding coming mainly from a religious organisation based in Europe that has close links with France".
Incidentally, French companies are in direct competition with Russian rivals in seeking to expand the market for nuclear reactors in India. The senior official, now on a visit to India, claimed that "your (i.e. the Manmohan Singh) government has full details of the religious organisation involved in funding the Kudankulam protests, but is keeping this secret as the organisation has high-level backers" in the UPA.
These present and retired officials claimed that "during the tenure in office of Secretary Clinton, several expert teams in the guise of NGOs were sent to Gujarat to try and find mass graves". The purpose was to then take the matter to the Office of the UN Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva as an example of genocide. "In 2011, some bones were discovered in a Gujarat field by one of the search teams and there was much excitement, but these were later found to be buffalo bones", an official said. The official added that "no evidence whatsoever of mass graves was uncovered in Gujarat despite six years of clandestine searching for them" by undercover experts posing as representatives of NGOs. He added that "five politicians, three from the state and two in Delhi, assisted the search teams, but the information given by them proved unproductive".
Finally, "now that Secretary Clinton had stepped down from office, by end-2012 orders were given to stop wasting time on the search for mass graves in Gujarat, much to the dismay of those NGOs who were getting significant funding as a consequence of the search operations". Interestingly, the senior official claimed that because of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's inability to water down the Nuclear Liability Act and Defence Minister A.K. Antony's decision to prefer the French Rafale fighter to its US rival, "orders were given to activate the Khalistan file so as to create embarrassment for Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh".
Another official, now retired, claimed that "since 2011, several search teams have been active in Punjab, seeking human remains in suspected mass graves". According to them, "key politicians in Punjab have assisted these search teams and on occasion even provided logistical facilities for them".
These officials claim that the recent decision by the US Aviation Authority to ban extra flights into the US by Indian carriers was "directly linked to US displeasure over the strong Indian response to the Devyani Khobragade episode, especially as they had been privately assured by senior officials that the fallout of an arrest would be routine and perfunctory".
Another example of misuse of public interest bodies cited was the recent decision by the UK Automobile Safety Authority to classify five India-produced small car models as unsafe, "or exactly the same models that are offering competition to European and US vehicles in the European market". They said that such steps were "protectionism in the guise of safety" and that "the Manmohan Singh government's passivity in responding to such unilateral measures encouraged more of them to get slapped on India".
Coming back to the BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi, these sources say that the Obama administration has dialled back on the hectic efforts by Hillary Clinton to paint the Gujarat CM as guilty of mass murder and even genocide. "This is clear from the latest report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has sharply scaled back its criticism of the Modi government as compared to earlier reports". According to a senior official, "President Obama does not share Hillary Clinton's confrontational approach and her preference for Sonia Gandhi, and is looking to establish a pragmatic partnership with India should Modi become the Prime Minister". Hence the search "for a US envoy who would be different from (former ambassador) Nancy Powell's Clinton-style hostile approach to Modi, and to find an individual who could be expected to bond with the new PM and his team". According to these sources, President Obama "is alarmed at the steep downslide in India-US ties caused by Hillary-style crusades, and wants the relationship to be even better than what it was under the Bush presidency".
Recent remarks by Narendra Modi indicate that the BJP's standard bearer is ready to reciprocate the hand of amity proffered by Team Obama to the BJP's PM nominee.