Atithi Devo Bhava (Guest is God)—this centuries-old pristine tradition emulated by Indians is well known all over the world. But the USA does not seemingly believe in this tradition. This was substantiated by not one incident. There are incidents galore to this effect. Indian people were harassed several times at airports and on board. Even Indian officials are not spared from embarrassing checking by the American airport officials. Recently, Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar was picked out of a security line and frisked openly in front of passengers at Jackson-Evers International Airport, Mississippi. Three weeks before this humiliating pat-down, another top Indian diplomat—India’s Permanent Representative to UN Hardeep Singh Puri—was asked to submit to a pat-down of his turban during a security check at another airport in Austin, Texas. As a matter of fact, these two are not cases in isolation; Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel was also quizzed by US authorities at O’Hare airport in Chicago three months ago. In another bizarre incident, former President APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked by Continental Airlines staff at the airport in Delhi last year. If our envoys, who enjoy diplomatic immunity, have to face such insult, I wonder what an ordinary Indian must be going through? While Dr Kalam was very graceful in dealing with the incident, it does not necessarily mean that our ex-Presidents should get a similar treatment in the future too.
These incidents have dented the US claims of upholding diplomatic traditions. How would Washington react if Hillary Clinton were subjected to a similar check here? The US expression of regret is a mere tokenism. Can’t those conducting immigration checks at American airports differentiate between an Ambassador and an ordinary sari-clad woman? What a wonderful ‘friendly gesture’ on part of the USA for offering billions of dollars of business to US-based Lockheed Martin and GE! Hence, we Indians should learn to return the favours of this type by Big Brother—Yankee. Or else Big Brother will take this also as a fun and a privilege and will smile saying protocol. When somebody acts funny on the nation’s prestige, the rulers should learn to reciprocate the action to the members of the other country, doing such ‘great things’ so that they also understand the happiness of humiliation. If the so-called technocrat Yankee cannot keep a photograph of the diplomats of countries like India, whose money and market are wooed, we should have the courage to make them understand that they are not so important to a great country like India for survival. Just try methods like cancelling the orders for the aircraft to be delivered by Lockheed Martin, GE or the like, they will come to the earth and will learn how to respect India. Until this happens, such incidents will keep on happening.
The pat-down security check Ms Shankar underwent is an outright insult to all of us. Can any of the country cite an example that it has been insulted or assaulted in privacy in India? Yet the USA meted out a very rude treatment on India, under the garb of US security. No surprise, a large section of Indians exhorts the government if the US knows the security check procedure, then why shouldn’t we? We also have to do the same procedure not only for diplomats but also for the US ministers. This is the way the US security can understand the law, so India should not allow any minister of the US without proper security check and the rule should be prepared and intimated immediately to the airport authority, this section of Indians emphasises. But the question arises whether the Indian government has the backbone to do the same thing to a US diplomat, let alone a minister. I am afraid the government does not have the nerve. Look at the current official head of the government—the Prime Minister. We have currently CWG scam, 2G Spectrum scam, Adarsh Housing Society scam, and many more issues doing rounds in India. But this highest authority “sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil”. What is the use of his office, if he cannot do anything for the country when it matters the most? In this backdrop, how do we expect others to respect us?
Finally, we should take solace in the fact—and it is cogent one—that India is a civilisation of more than 5000 years of proven, impeccable record, whereas the USA has merely 300-plus years’ history as a nation. So, the USA’s moorings are not rooted as deeply in human values and ethos as that of India’s.