Gandhinagar, Jan. 11: Two wrinkles today showed up on the otherwise smooth Vibrant Gujarat show put up by Narendra Modi.
R. Nicholas Burns, a former US under secretary of state in the George W. Bush dispensation, referred to religious tolerance and the need to respect different faiths at a US-India Business Council meeting where the chief minister was not present.
Next, a business delegation from Karachi, hoping to meet Modi and explore the prospects of collaborations, was told to stay put in a hotel in Ahmedabad.
The reason was traced to fears that the delegations’ presence at the summit might stoke an already combustible situation surrounding the killing of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control. The BJP today protested in Ahmedabad against the killing.
Sources said the Karachi representatives were politely advised to leave the city, their mission unaccomplished.
The paradoxes in the Gujarat-US equation were reinforced when in the inaugural session, Ron Somers, who heads the business council, extolled Modi and held him as a template that other states must emulate.
The US has still refused to issue Modi a visa because of the 2002 killings. Yet, the presence of Peter Haas, the Mumbai-based US consul-general, evoked curiosity because a senior Gujarat government official claimed Haas had sought an invite for the summit.
In his speech, Somers said: “Congratulations are due. In 2001, when the chief minister began his innings… the progress in 2013 is stunning. You have set a new benchmark in the other states as well. That is that progress trumps politics. Because how many economies, how many countries can boast a GDP of more than 11 per cent? There are very few and Gujarat is at the top of that list.”
He signed off with a “Jai Gujarat, God bless America”.
A couple of hours later, Burns flagged three points in his address. “America and India should celebrate our multi-religious, inclusive societies. Both respect the right to have different religious forms.” He singled out Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the “greatest shining symbol” of the respect India showed to all religions.
Asked if the US could rethink its position on granting Modi a visa, Burns said: “No, the conditions remain the same.” But he added that this was his sense because he was no longer in the government.
Burns, who had visited Delhi eight times as a mediator for the Indo-US nuclear deal, admitted to being disappointed at India’s “lack of reciprocity”.
“I was one of the negotiators and I can say that the US kept every promise it made to the Indian government. India has not kept its part of the deal. Until India delivers its bit, no investments will come. We deserve reciprocity from the Indian government,” Burns said.
Some of those present at the closed session admitted to being taken aback, more so because Burns was there was as a senior counsellor for a global business consulting service.
But Burns said: “I was merely explaining the values the US and India share.”