We Indians are a prickly lot and get easily riled by others acting in their own self-interest. So, it’s not surprising that offended voices are being volubly, cacophonously, raised over a misreported ‘travel advisory’ for Americans travelling to South Asia, issued by the US State Department. Among other countries in the region, it mentions India.
Lost in the caw-caw of faux nationalist outrage are two simple facts. First, the object of misplaced ire is not a country-specific ‘travel advisory’ but a mere mention in the periodically revised ‘Worldwide Caution’ note on the US State Department’s website. Second, the primary concern of the US government is to ensure the safety and security of American citizens; in fulfilling that task it has no obligation to be nice to others.
The purpose of the ‘Worldwide Caution’ is to inform Americans about the US State Department’s current assessment of the global “threat of terrorist actions, political violence and criminal activity against US citizens and interests abroad”. The ‘Worldwide Caution’ note that was posted on March 6, 2017, replaces the one posted on September 9, 2016.
In the paragraph on ‘South and Central Asia’ it says: “US citizens should avoid travel to Afghanistan, as no region in the country is immune from violence. A number of established terrorist organisations, indigenous sectarian groups, and other militants pose a danger to US citizens in Pakistan. Extremist elements are also active in India, as outlined in a recent emergency message. Terrorists have hit a wide variety of targets and institutions in Bangladesh.”
A general cautionary note is different from ‘Travel Warnings,’ which have been in effect for Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh since 2016 when they were last updated. An ‘Emergency Message’ is issued in the context of immediate events. For instance, the US Consulate in Chennai issued an ‘Emergency Message’ when widespread violence was feared in the aftermath of Jayalalithaa’s death.
No, the US is not trying to put down India. The US is trying to do its job of protecting its citizens because it attaches value to American lives. This will likely sound strange in India where Indian lives are treated as worthless by the Government machinery which does not believe that it owes it to the people to tell them the truth and alert them about the reality.
Yes, terrorist organisations are not on the rampage in India as in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or gaining ground as in Bangladesh. But they exist from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. West Bengal is now a haven for Islamists as is Kerala. Even as I write, there’s a standoff happening in Lucknow between the police and a suspected terrorist involved in the derailing of trains.
Islamist terrorists in India, as those in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, would strike at Americans and US targets if they got the opportunity to do so. The attack on the American Center in Calcutta did happen and cannot be wished away.
Could we then please stop carping and learn a lesson from the US? That would be to make the Government of India more mindful of the safety and security of Indian citizens at home and abroad. Indian lives matter, and it’s time the Government of India and its agencies were made to realise this. And no, it’s silly to suggest that India should respond with an advisory, telling Indians to avoid travelling to ‘racist America’. That would be laughable.
Kanchan Gupta is commissioning editor & commentator, ABP News
The views expressed are personal