Narendra Modi is planning to proceed to the US on a state visit from June 7-8, 2016. Since taking up the mantle of Prime Minister, as of May 2016, he has made forty foreign trips, including the visits to USA to attend UNGA.
It is ironic that following the slaughter of over 2000 Muslims under his watch as CM Gujarat in 2002, Modi was barred from entering either the USA or Europe. His human rights record was so appalling that these countries, who considered him responsible for the 2002 genocide, refused to grant him a visa.
Everything changed in May 2014, when Modi took oath as Prime Minister of India. The same US and Europe rolled out the red carpet for the erstwhile “Butcher of Gujarat”. What caused this cataclysmic change? The 1.32 billion population of India, 50 percent of which is in the bracket of 0-25 years, the huge market opportunity that it presented and its voracious appetite for arms, drew the shopkeepers of Europe, the Military Industrial Complex of the USA and other investors to woo India.
Moreover, Modi’s track record as Chief Minister of Gujarat, other than his brazen support for extremism, has been a penchant for commerce, trade and industrialisation, which had turned the economy of the coastal state (sometimes referred to as the “Jewel of Western India”), attracting not only Indian voters but also western economies, who wanted a slice of the Indian pie.
Aatish Taseer, the son of former Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer, in his New York Times Op-Ed of May 27, 2016, comments: “Mr. Modi was the first Indian politician to speak seriously of prosperity. In a country with a socialist past whose first prime minister is said to have described profit as ‘a dirty word,’ Mr. Modi made making money sexy. He has a way of explaining complex economic ideas in direct terms. ‘I don’t want my cotton grower to wander from place to place, trying to sell his cotton,’ he said in an address to the Sri Ram College of Commerce in 2013. ‘I have a ‘five F’ formula: farm to fiber, fiber to fabric, fabric to fashion, fashion to foreign.’
It was revolutionary. No candidate for prime minister since economic liberalisation began in 1991 had bothered to explain the global economy to the average Indian voter, to connect the dots in its supply chain, to speak of its possibilities. The Congress Party, famous for its ‘reforms by stealth,’ had made liberalisation seem like something done at the expense of the poor. Mr. Modi sold it as essential to the fight against poverty. The response was electrifying. Two years later, India is still waiting to turn a corner. At times it can feel close, but the socialist mind-set still has an outsized influence.”
Modi’s problem is not just being steeped in efforts trying to emulate the Occident but falling short; it is his rigid adherence to extremist Hindu orthodoxy.
His promises of shining India have been naught but mirages, with no substance but his greater sin is falling prey to the diktats of radical and fanatic Hindu groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which supported Modi during his electoral campaign in 2014 and demanded its proverbial pound of flesh afterwards of accommodating RSS operatives in positions of authority and following a policy of subjugating the Indian minorities.
Ajit Doval, a fellow RSS member was appointed as the National Security Adviser, Sanjeev Tripathi, the current head of India’s intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Alok Joshi, Rajnath Singh, the current Home Minister and Dineshwar Sharma, head of India’s Intelligence Bureau are all geared to wreak havoc on Indian minorities.
Let’s examine some of the recent events since Modi has held the reins of the government.
There has been an organised pogrom or ethnic cleansing of religious minorities as well as lower caste Hindus – the Dalit. Due to persecution, a sizable number of Dalit had converted to Islam. Under Modi’s guardianship, a formal program titled “Ghar Wapsi” (Home Coming) organised by extremist organizations like Vishva Hindu Parishad and RSS, are forcibly reconverting the Dalit under a new legislation, which bans conversion of religion in India.
Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) was meted special attention. Modi tried his utmost to rig elections in Kashmir to have his political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gain a clear majority to amend Indian Constitution and amalgamate IOK into India. Modi’s intention was to have Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that grants special autonomous status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir abrogated. Mercifully, he failed.
The trend of beating African students studying in Indian Universities increased due to ongoing racism after Modi’s election. Last week, one Congolese student was beaten to death. According to Indian media, seven African students were attacked during half an hour. African Ambassadors accredited to India have recommended their governments restrict their students from studying in India. Violent incidents are increasing in Modi’s regime.
India has also made several attempts to browbeat Pakistan and subjugate it through incessant firing across the LoC, staging false flag operations and implicating Pakistan but has failed. Such a trend continues with India’s other neighbours. Interference in Nepal’s internal affairs like the formulation of a new Nepalese Constitution has resulted in an economic blockade of the landlocked Himalayan state.
Sri Lanka was interested in getting Pakistani expertise for its nuclear reactors but India has stepped in discouraging Sri Lanka. Similarly, Pakistan had found a market for its JF-17 Thunder aircraft in Sri Lanka and the deal was in its final stages, when Indian interference ruined the sale agreement.
Let us briefly examine Indo-US relations. Prominent leaders of India’s freedom movement had friendly ties with the United States of America which continued well after independence from Great Britain in 1947. In 1954, United States of America made Pakistan a Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) treaty-ally. India cultivated relations with the USSR to counter this. In 1961, India became a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement to avoid involvement in the Cold War power-play. In the 1990s, Indian foreign policy adapted to the unique status of USA as the sole power in the world and edged closer to it.
Recently, Indian foreign policy has sought to leverage India’s strategic autonomy in order to safeguard sovereign rights and promote national interests within a multi-polar world. Under Presidents Bush and Obama, US has also sought to come closer to India by addressing its concerns.
As mentioned above, increase in bilateral trade & investment, cooperation on global security matters, inclusion of India in decision-making on matters of global governance (UNSC), upgraded representation in trade & investment forums (World Bank, IMF, APEC), multilateral export control regimes (NSG, MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group) and joint-manufacturing through technology sharing arrangements have become a measure of speed and advancement to closer US-India relations.
According to Gallup’s annual World Affairs survey, India is perceived by Americans as their 6th favourite nation in the world, with 71% of Americans viewing India favourably in 2015.
As Modi travels yet again to Washington and US coffers are reopened, it would be prudent for President Obama to take a pragmatic look at Modi’s track record in human rights and perhaps share some pearls of wisdom with the Indian Premier so that the minorities in India and India’s neighbours get a reprieve.