Back in 2013, a Wharton School student group provoked indignation in India by uninviting then-Gujarat state official Narendra Modi to address its yearly Wharton India Economic Forum.
At the time, the State Department was still reviewing Modi's role in Hindu-Muslim violence a decade earlier. Indian courts exonerated Modi, but he still could not get a visa to come here - or permission to address students by satellite.
The Wharton students' uninvite provoked some big Indian companies to disinvite themselves from that year's India Forum, embarrassing the school as it recruited vigorously for students and corporate partners in the world's largest democracy.
Aseem Shukla, a Philadelphia pediatrician and cofounder of the Hindu American Foundation, was among the Modi advocates who warned at the time that such "decisions have consequences."
Today, Modi is prime minister of India, President Obama has visited him twice to sign trade, military, and nuclear-energy pacts, and Shukla, who is also a University of Pennsylvania professor, has been among those advising the same student group on its 2015 Wharton India Economic Forum, set to begin Feb. 20 at the Union League.
He praised the students for "doing their best to organize a successful conference."
Keynote speakers will include:
Hital Meswani, the Penn-trained engineer who heads the petroleum business at Dhirubhai Ambani's Reliance Industries Group.
Punit Goenka, chief executive at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., which owns 33 channels of Indian TV and 34 channels beamed to Indians outside India,
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii), the first Hindu elected to Congress.
I asked the Penn professors who organized against Modi's appearance at the 2013 event how their views had developed now that Modi is running India's government and U.S.-India trade, military, and nuclear relations (the nuclear deals benefiting Penn grad Krishna Singh's South Jersey-based Holtec International, among other companies) are warming fast.
Penn sociologist Toorjo Ghose said the U.S. had still not lifted the ban on giving Modi a normal State Department visa, imposed when Modi ran Gujarat.
But does that matter, I asked, now that Obama embraces Modi? "He does receive a special visa to visit the U.S. as a head of state," Ghose acknowledged. But, he added, "I doubt he will use that to come to Wharton."
Ghose's English department colleague Ania Loomba referred me to an article in the Nation complaining that Modi sees the U.S. as a model, a position long anathema to the Indian left.
Notwithstanding that the U.S. has its own communal-violence issues, Obama called for religious tolerance on his most recent visit to India.
The Hindustan Times reported last week that Delhi's Catholic archbishop and other leaders have lately blamed Modi's government for not protecting them against or quickly investigating arson attacks on Catholic churches around Delhi, the national capital.
The U.K.-based Economist says this kind of image is costing the prime minister. "Modi has failed to reject the nasty Hindu nationalist fringe that gathers around his party," the magazine editorialized Monday, adding that this attitude contributed to the "thrashing" of Modi's Bharatiya Janata party by the rising reformist Aam Aadmi party in Delhi state last weekend.
After the vote, in India's Economic Times, national defense minister Manohar Parrikar condemned a recent church attack. He added that churches have come under pressure in states not dominated by Modi's political party, so he thinks it is wrong to blame his party.