Saturday, 14 April 2012

Detention - Apology – Detention: The Demise of International Hospitality

The U.S Federal Aviation Administration declares that the goal of aviation security is to prevent harm to aircraft, passengers, and crew, as well as support national security and counter-terrorism policy. Clearly, hospitality does not feature on their list. Shahrukh Khan’s detention by the U.S Security today attracted media glare. Some honor it was for the man who was invited to deliver a speech at the prestigious Yale University.

Shahrukh is just one in the otherwise long list of personalities to be detained. Neil Nitin Mukesh was earlier detained because of an unbelievably flimsy reason that he did not ‘look’ like an Indian. Maybe, its time the U. S Aviation department should define what a standard Indian should look like. Aamir and Kabir Khan too have borne the brunt of the detention in the past. Khans- apart, the U. S Security has not even spared frisking the former Indian President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam or the Indian Ambassador to the United States Meera Shankar in the not so distant past. The U.S has stepped the line one too many times. In fact the State Authorities accepted in the case of the Kalam episode that "Appropriate procedure for expedited screening of dignitaries had not been followed." Each time the governments are said to take the matter to the “highest level” strangely all that India has done is make –good of the U.S Apology- Appeasement policy.

So is India guilty of downplaying the whole issue while accepting the U.S Pacifist Policy? Are statements of apology enough? Is diplomacy being elevated to a new high in terms of Indian ‘Tolerance’ levels or is this a showcase of inability coupled with the lack of determination on our part to pay back? Twitter and Facebook have been abuzz with people from across the board venting their anger, some resorting to jest but with no concrete solutions in the offing.

It has been proposed time and again that India should probably mete out the same measures that the U.S does. Imagine President Obama being frisked at the Delhi Airport: unthinkable and if it happened OUTRAGEOUS! India would immediately be summoned to the Moral High Table.

Cynicism apart, none could have put it better than former Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr. Somnath Chatterjee who cancelled his trip to London and later Australia to avoid what he believed the humiliation of being frisked. He said, "Unless we respect each other, how can we have good relations? It is all the more painful when a fellow Commonwealth country does this. It is really an affront to India that some country insists on rigorous checks on its Speaker in the name of security." Clearly he is not the only one. Other leaders like Prakash Karat too have expressed their distaste for such incidents.

Which brings us back to Square One: Where lies the solution? India has maintained safe- distance from the ‘Tit-for-Tat’ policy which is currently its best bet. If a concrete framework on a common middle ground is not chalked out soon, it would leave room only for talks and more talks till an alternative (if any) is found. The only other way out is abstention of the Indian elite from visiting the U.S in future which is but a practical impossibility .

India has been quiet for far too long. The onus of preventing the recurrence of such uncouth behaviour lies solely in the realm of the Ministry of External Affairs at this point.

The question in the end however remains: Does India’s Foreign Policy need some careful additions in its dealing with other States? Should Reciprocal Altruism replace the submissiveness?

Katherine Abraham
@katie_abraham on Twitter

Note: The statement on the U.S Authorities has been quoted from The TOI, 13th November, 2011:

Mr Somnath Chatterjee's statement courtesy TOI :


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  2. I have no comments about the detention of bollywood celebrities by US authorities. It is their country and they are under threat. It is their prerogative to take measures to ensure safety of their country and coutrymen.. We find it difficult because we are used to the chalta hai attitude prevalent in India. In case of the incident with ormer president and Speaker of the house and diplomats to UN it is clearly the failure of Indian External affairs ministry and the concerned Indian diplomatic mission. The same mission officers who ensure safe arrival and departure of Mr. Robert Vadra, who is non state personality..