A U.S. ambassador should not be shaking hands with a mass murderer who is barred from the United States.

But that's what happened in India on February 13.

"The United States has ended a decade-long boycott of the Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi over deadly religious riots as a top diplomat held talks with the man tipped to be the country's next prime minister," Agence France-Presse reports in The Guardian. "Nancy Powell, the U.S. ambassador to India, shook hands with Modi, who presented her with a bouquet of flowers at his official residence in western Gujarat state, where he is chief minister, before entering closed-door talks."

In 2002, Modi presided over an anti-Muslim pogrom that left thousands of people dead in his home state.

"In many cases, the police led the charge, using gunfire to kill Muslims who got in the mobs' way," Human Rights Watch said in a report issued at the time.

After initially ignoring the bloodbath, the Bush Administration, in response to pressure from human rights groups, banned Modi from getting a visa.

Modi has now been chosen as the prime ministerial candidate of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party in this summer's national elections and is very eager to get the ban overturned. The Obama Administration has apparently decided that it is to the benefit of the United States to possibly go down that road.

Why? The answer lies with corporate interests.

"The U.S. carmaker Ford is due to open a production plant this year in Gujarat, where Modi is praised for running an efficient, pro-business government," AFP reports. "General Motors already has a facility there."

Plus, Westinghouse is to install a nuclear power plant in the state under a 2005 U.S.-India agreement.

Massive protests have already begun against the project, and, apparently, the United States wants to keep Modi's state administration on its right side.

Modi's "government has been keen on nuclear power," the Indian paper The Telegraph reported last August. "Even as protests have grown over the past few months, the Modi government has remained at least administratively supportive."

Plus, the United States is calculating that, if elected prime minister, Modi will carry the same pro-multinational outlook with him to New Delhi and lay out the red carpet for U.S. companies.

A prominent Indian-American organization is bewildered by the Obama Administration's move.

"It is difficult to fathom the reasoning behind the Administration's decision," Ahsan Khan, the president of the Indian American Muslim Council, tells me. "To us, it represents a violation of the principles of human rights and religious freedom at the altar of hyped-up 'business interests.'"

In prioritizing commerce over principle, the Obama Administration is not only legitimizing a killer, it is also aiding in his ambition to lead the largest democracy in the world. A widely publicized photo of Powell and Modi smiling together tells the Indian electorate that Modi is OK with Washington.

"The Administration's ill-advised move in easing the boycott on Mr. Modi is a violation of the principles of human rights and religious freedom of which the United States has long been a vocal proponent," says Khan. "Progressive groups in this country will ensure that the Administration's lack of judgment does not go unnoticed."

As they should.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.


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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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