New Delhi: There's something all-round nauseating about the news of Britain's decision of "active engagement" of Gujarat and Narendra Modi and the associated celebrations in Modi's camp. On its heels comes intelligence that the United States may revoke the travel ban on the Gujarat chief minister. So what's the big deal? And why should all this be played up by the media as if Icarus has landed on the sun? Is the West the centre of the universe without whose approval a leaf cannot stir anywhere in the world?


China and India were once the leaders of the world, long before the West rose to prominence, and when the United States had not even been discovered. In a telling commentary recently, Henry Kissinger reminded the two US presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, that China would modernize in its own way, and that neither should expect or hope that Chinese political institutions of the future would be modeled on American ones. Two of China's greatest post-revolutionary leaders, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, were so much in control that the West bowed at their feet, and generations of Chinese leaders are deeply committed to the concept of the Middle Kingdom, which envisages China as the centre of the world.

And how do Indian leaders conduct themselves? They slavishly and shamelessly seek certificates from the West. (Unfortunately, this is true of writers and so-called intellectuals as well.) Manmohan Singh forgave British colonization of India for an honorary doctorate from Oxford despite having earned a degree from there. More recently, he was so stung by a Washington Post attack on his paralyzed prime-ministership that he threw open doors for Western capitalist sharks. Senior officials in the prime minister's office say the Washington Post piece (see Commentary, "Behind the attack") was arranged to shame Manmohan Singh, and that the prime minister walked into the trap. It is FDI, foreign multi-brand retail, Western ratings agencies and shabashes from Western capitals that animate Manmohan Singh, who otherwise remains unapproachable for and scornful of Indian small-and-medium business and the salaried classes crushed by suicidally high prices.

Sadly, Narendra Modi joins this bandwagon of Western admirers. The West has much to admire, but that is not the same thing as queuing up to get certificates from it. This writer's position has been clear from start. Narendra Modi is an elected chief minister. The West, especially Britain and the United States, had no business treating him like a pariah. And it is shameful that the Indian mainstream media, lead for the most part by Padma editors (recipients of the UPA government's Padma awards), and NRI academics in the West, goaded the US and the UK to ban Modi, and celebrated his proscription. If the Modi precedent was applied to Rajiv Gandhi apropos the 1984 riots, he would conceivably have been the only Indian prime minister forced to stay at home. Now with a UK rethink on Modi and the US likely to follow in its footsteps, there would be gloom in anti-Modi quarters. The sun wouldn't rise there. Does any of this make sense?

Governments are mercenary, and the US and UK governments are more mercenary than most. Currently, their armies are pillaging the Middle East for cheap oil. Perhaps these governments have calculated, rightly or wrongly, that Narendra Modi is unstoppable, that he indeed may become India's prime minister in the near future, and that it would be positively criminal and infinitely stupid, especially in the middle of the West's rapid decline, to treat him as persona non grata. This re-engagement of Modi, therefore, is a business decision, very likely originating in Wall Street and the City of London, and there is nothing to celebrate or mourn about it. A sensible political leader would have calmly accepted the news, refrained from tweeting, "God is great," and gone on with his mission. Perhaps, Modi has been so vilified than any positive development makes him irrationally exuberant. A true follower of Swami Vivekananda would be unmoved by the change of fortune.