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FEELING GOOD

The art of diplomacy thrives on rapprochement. Thus the moves by the government of the United States of America to smooth the ruffled feathers of Narendra Modi, the prime minister-in-waiting according to the wisdom of pollsters, and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the frontrunner in the race to be the single largest party in the Lok Sabha, would appear to be a triumph of diplomacy. This is especially true as the resolution of the incident conveys the impression that Mr Modi has emerged as previously the victim and now a victor. It will be recalled that after the bloodbath in Gujarat in 2002, the US government decided to have nothing to do with Mr Modi. Washington DC was not alone in its hostility towards Mr Modi. The European Union and Great Britain had also boycotted the Gujarat chief minister. This boycott and the refusal to grant Mr Modi a visa to visit the US was, it is believed, carried out at the behest of the US Congress. Such a decision may not have had the complete approval of the US state department which operates more on pragmatism rather than idealistic principles. The EU and Great Britain have both retracted from their hardline position of treating Mr Modi as a political untouchable. Now the US ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, will also meet Mr Modi on his own turf in Gandhinagar.

Mr Modi can now bask in the sense that he is back within the folds of civilization. But his delight should be tempered with the awareness that a meeting with the US ambassador in India and gestures of friendship from the state department do not necessarily mean the granting of a US visa. That remaining hurdle should not lead to the undermining of the importance of the meeting between Ms Powell and Mr Modi. If Mr Modi does become the prime minister a few months from now, he will be aware that the US state department had taken positive steps to remove all residual bitterness that had existed between it and Mr Modi. Ms Powell would also have earned for herself and her government a certain amount of goodwill brownie points as the current jargon has it by travelling to Gandhinagar to meet the Gujarat chief minister. Mr Modi is now elated with a sense of victory: he is now being wooed. By imparting to Mr Modi this sense of elation and satisfaction, the US state department has gained an enormous amount without apparently conceding much. Metternich would have applauded.