The recent manipulated visit of Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, commissioner, United States Commission for the International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), to Dharamsala for attending an anti-China conference sponsored by the US Congress run National Endowment for Democracy (The Hindu, 03 May 2016, p. 12) , throws up serious questions of International decency and India’s Security in its Diplomatic and International relations field.
If one recalls that Ms. Lantos Swett and her USCIRF delegation were denied visa as recently as the 04 March 2016 when the Indian Embassy in Washington declared the commission to be devoid of any locus standing in matters concerning India, and takes into account Ms. Swett‟s assertion of triumphalism that she did go to Dharamsala despite Indian government’s policy on visa denial to her being in force, do not just translate into utter arrogance of the official but reflects basic and by far willful violation by the West of the sovereignty of developing countries. And this kind of hoodwinking of a sovereign state is not without reminding one of the film maker, Leslee Udwin‟s maneuvers, bypassing, a few years ago, the then Union Minister of Home Affairs, to obtain permission to interview the Nirbhaya accused in Tihar Jail for her documentary, India’s Daughter.
Granting that the US body is genuinely concerned with religious freedom across the globe, it is just a matter of basic courtesy that a top-level official of a high profile international organization shows minimal respect to the sovereignty of a country. Yet, Dr. Lantos Swett found it appropriate to maneuver her way into securing an Indian visa apparently influencing (should I say “charming‟ borrowing West’s misleadingly romantic expression?) the middle-level administration of the Indian Embassy in Washington.
Of course, a Westerner is apt to throw back the hatchet at India claiming it is the latter’s decision after all to issue her a visa. To know why these middle level officials find it so hard to report her case to higher level decision-making, refer to my article, “Annihilationism, the Causative Terrorism” in the columns of this very website (using “search box‟).
The point I am making is that whether a high profile International Organization that allows its top officials to willfully violate (in a substantial sense, not in the technical and opportunistic Western sense) the very sovereignty of other countries is qualified at all to assess objectively what religions are and much less, what religious freedom is? For, such transgressions are more of tactical nature rather than born out of wholesome human respect. Besides, as Dr. Lantos Swett‟s example amply illustrates, these organizations lack basic international decency, psychological maturity, moral character… all of which are necessary to objectively understand an infinite variety of situations in which religious practices take place and assess the manner in which the invisible freedom unfurls.
Do we presume then that a top official of a US watch-dog on religious freedom across the globe and one who runs, in addition, the Lantos Foundation of Human Rights and Justice organization, and who comes from a political family is so utterly lacking in the knowledge of international etiquette? And she just traveled in sheer enthusiasm, and as a mere delegate, to attend an anti-China conference sponsored by the US? Two observations give a lie to this line of thinking:
1. Dr. Lantos Swett specifically denies that she went as a representative of USCIRF, for she could as well have traveled on behalf of her Human Rights organization, and better, she perhaps is making this claim as she manipulated a tourist visa (!) even though as The Hindu reported there was no change in Indian policy; and 2. Yet, no sooner than she returned to the US, she released the USCIRF Report on India urging the US government to take a serious view of violations in India of religious freedom. Worse, she attributed them to the Modi regime. These two moves cannot be seen as entirely unconnected. For if Dr. Lantos Swett could not release the Report on India earlier on, such an inability could only be attributed to a need to fill certain lacunae in it. And these lacunae, it is obvious, needed her personal intervention to be irrefutably addressed. Otherwise, it is not difficult to imagine a high-profile US organization such as USCIRF being well placed to receive data from any number of conduits, given the general pro-Western and cosmopolitan profile of India‟s elite civil society.
This would mean that Dr. Lantos Swett needed not just to visit India but also needed to obfuscate the hat she was wearing‟ during such a visit. Yet, the fact remains that it is not just because her visa was labeled tourist visa, that she would be nothing more than a tourist while visiting India. It is only to be expected that her USCIRF hat would keep popping up if only because it is needed for personally authenticating the report. Indeed, the fact that she released the report just hours after her return to US shows that the subject has been constantly on Dr. Lantos Swett‟s mind all along. Thus, by disclaiming that she was not traveling as a representative of USCIRF she has just been duping people by taking shelter under manipulated official denominations.
That Dr. Lantos Swett’s Indian visit lasted for just two days and that her time was divided between the anti-China conference and her duties as a representative of USCIRF, make it clear that she could not have had any opportunity for extensive first hand reality-check of the data she received from various sources on matters related to religious freedom in India. Yet, she found it appropriate to indict the Modi-government in her report to the US government recommending that a serious view be taken of the alleged violations of religious freedom in India! Be aware that such reports by “expert‟ committees/specialist organizations can be invoked (together with other data) to justify sanctions against developing countries if the US government chooses to resort to them. That is, these reports and recommendations are potentially nothing short of political tools. They strengthen their government‟s hands in installing international hegemony.
Recall that Modi’s visa, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, was withheld on the basis precisely of the USCIRF recommendations. That is the reason why such reports are often pre-decided in their objective and the authentication added post-facto. A visit to the target country is not needed per se to objectively verify the conclusions arrived at on the basis of third-party inputs, but to strengthen those conclusions. This of course does not exclude minor tweaking on peripheral issues and in view of issue‟s social and media perception.
This explains why organizations not just those like USCIRF but others like Human Rights Organizations constantly seek visas to visit developing countries or resort to manipulative visits just as Dr. Lantos Swett has done. In the West, then Equality, Human Rights, various forms of Freedom are not perceived holistically as we do here and fight over it, but as tactical and political tools to beat others with and to exercise international hegemony.
It is not as if Western countries fight a lone battle. There is an unstated cooperation and coordination among all those countries and individuals that subscribe to this kind of tactical (nay, subversive) ideology. Refer to my articles in this website on some such efforts: “Fishing in Troubled”
Waters: The Australian Way, and Moody’s Analytics Advisory. Indeed, a major objective of the unstated Cultural Imperialist policy or better, the policy of Anthropological Conversion practiced by the Western countries on the sly but extensively and through collective mobilization of their people is precisely one of turning people from the third world into disciplined foot-soldiers cooperating in this enterprise (cf. Annihilationism, the Causative Terrorism). That is the reason why last year’s intolerance campaign or the award vapasi program could be seen as much as Opposition’s Bihar vote-catching device as well as one furthering dangerous Western ideological interests. Indeed, Dr. Lantos Swett has given hints to the effect that a considerable part of USCIRF‟s indictment of India is based largely on the inputs related to Award Vapasi campaign.
Dr. Lantos Swett is perhaps inclined to dismiss all this as so much of hogwash. After all, it is rare that an accused pleads guilty. But then, should all this be really,so much of a hogwash‟, her media briefing in the US, soon after her return from India, gloating over her ability to breach India‟s visa-ban and simultaneously releasing an indicting USCIRF report classifying India as a tier-II country, strongly recommending to her government a serious view of the religious intolerance in that country, would irrefutably reflect her extreme spitefulness towards India and its government. And one who harbors such a deep-seated prejudice and has no qualms in resorting to manipulative actions throwing to winds all the norms of decorum and decency that go with the exalted international positions one holds, cannot in any event be held to be acting in an objective and non-partisan manner.
What is in fact in evidence is belligerence and a tit-for-tat vengeance.
By Pratap Codadu