President Donald Trump’s new-model ban on visas to six Muslim-majority countries — redrafted in the hope of avoiding the savaging at the hands of the United States judiciary that led to the demise of its earlier iteration — is remarkable for serving no public purpose at all. The citizens of the six countries to which it temporarily denies visas — Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya — have claimed the lives of zero United States citizens on United States soil. The chances of a US citizen being killed in their own country in non-ideological gun violence, has remained higher in all years since 9/11 than the threat from Islamist terrorism. The real motive for President Trump’s relentless pursuit of the visa ban, though, isn’t security; it is the fanning of hatred against Muslims. That this government-backed effort to inflame hatred comes amidst the killings of persons of Indian origin should be a particular cause of concern in New Delhi.
The government has voiced its concern over alleged hate crime against persons of Indian origin, including individuals who are not Indian citizens. Trump referred to the Kansas incident in his speech to the US Congress. New Delhi has, very rightly, said that it looks forward to due process in all these cases and swift prosecution and punishment of the guilty. But the fact is that the Trump visa ban reinforces the anti-immigration sentiment that underlines Washington’s policy priorities. The fact is that government policy is often received as a signal and endorsement of extreme viewpoints, which, otherwise are not publically expressed. That’s why for a country with a significant diaspora in the US, the messages from Washington are a reason for deep disquiet.
President Trump’s first State of the Union address last week had raised the promise that he may now shun the divisive polemic that distinguished his politics until then. Though he reasserted his intent to limit immigration, he condemned hate crime: The speech suggested that the president may adopt a more pragmatic path than stick to unreasonable rhetoric and policy. New Delhi’s attempt to influence the Trump administration from undermining key Indian interests, like H1B visa quotas is still work in progress. Long-term allies of the US like Germany raised the red flag when Washington first proposed entry ban against refugees and citizens of certain countries: Chancellor Angela Merkel said the essential and also resolute fight against terrorism in no way justifies general suspicion against people of a specific faith and that the ban contradicts the basic tenets of international aid to refugees and international cooperation. It is a sentiment much of the world will agree with.