ON 27 MARCH 2013, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Aaron Schock and Cynthia Lummis—three Republican members of the United States Congress—touched down in Ahmedabad. In the travel disclosure form that McMorris Rodgers later submitted to the US House of Representatives Committee on Ethics, she reported that the delegation came to India to discuss “trade relations with the state of Gujarat” and “mutual security concerns resulting from global terrorism.” Their sponsor’s organisational interest in the trip was for “American congressmen and business leaders to first hand experience the culture, traditions and values of India and develop a deeper understanding and friendship between the two peoples.” This sponsor was the Indian-American businessman Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar.
Fifteen hours after their arrival, McMorris Rodgers, Schock and Lummis sat in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, for their first meeting with Narendra Modi. At the time, he was the chief minister of Gujarat at the head of a Bharatiya Janata Party government. Newt Gingrich, a former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives and Kumar’s longtime associate, phoned in to the meeting with Modi and vowed to advocate for him in Washington, DC. Over the course of ten days, the group visited various BJP officials, businessmen, and chambers of commerce in three cities. They went to many tourist sites, including Hindu temples. They did not visit too many sites connected to Islam and none connected to Christianity, nor did they meet any members of the Indian National Congress, the party in national power at the time. Clearly, this trip was about Modi.