Comedian John Oliver joked that India’s newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, had set “the new bar” for visits by heads of government. Modi’s weekend visit to New York City had some of the trappings of a rock star’s arrival.
His speech at Madison Square Garden featured dancers and a portrait artist. And Modi quoted the famous Star Wars line, “May the force be with you,” after his speech in Central Park, with Wolverine (aka Hugh Jackman) by his side.
Forgotten in the hoopla was the fact that Modi had been banned from entering the US in 2005, for failing to intervene as chief minister of Gujarat state during 2002 riots in which Hindu mobs attacked minority Muslims. According to the International Religious Freedom Act (pdf, pg 2), which the US Congress passed in 1998, “foreign officials responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom” aren’t eligible for visas. Indian courts have cleared Hindu-nationalist Modi of wrongdoing, and his fawning fans in New York didn’t seem to care.