D.C. PATHAK | 17 Jul, 2023
The grand reception accorded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the US
by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden on June 22 at the White
House – to which a large number of US nationals of Indian origin were
invited – demonstrated three new aspects of the US-India friendship.
aspects are: the two largest democracies are set to lead the democratic
world in facing both ‘challenges and opportunities’ in the times ahead,
the Americans of Indian origin are bringing pride to both nations, and
the Indo-US relationship now embraces all aspects of defence and
These are clearly the new benchmarks set to define what looks like an irreversible friendship between the two countries.
is indeed remarkable that there are no conceivable negatives about this
relationship notwithstanding India’s balanced approach to the
Ukraine-Russia military conflict and a strong lobby in the US
questioning the alleged erosion of freedom of expression in India under
the Modi regime.
In their opening remarks, both Biden and Modi
referred to the democratic base of the Constitution of the two countries
rooted in the words ‘We the people’ and spoke of their shared
commitment to world peace and advance of democratic values.
relations in today’s geopolitics are determined by both security and
economic concerns of the nations but the geo-strategic dimensions had
the overriding importance – significantly the National Security Advisors
of India and the US, Ajit Doval and Jake Sullivan, were the only other
invitees to the private dinner and musical evening that President Biden
hosted for the Indian Prime Minster at the White House on the first
night of the visit itself.
Prime Minister Modi’s comprehensive,
informative and powerful address at the US Congress was undoubtedly the
best presentation of India’s progress in recent years, its
civilisational strength and its vision of a peaceful ‘one world’. He
called for a new world order- post-Covid- marked by a seamless Indo-US
cooperation for economic growth, security and environmental
His commitment to India’s national interests stood
out as he marshalled the facts of India’s advance in digitalisation, the
success of ‘direct transfers’ to the poor and the mutuality of gains
that would result for both the countries from American investments in
Modi’s emphasis on India speaking with ‘one voice’ despite its
vast diversity in terms of language, customs and ways of worship was an
effective counter to those who had been building a narrative of India’s
The Prime Minister pointed out that from
being ‘a stranger’ in the area of defence cooperation, the US is now one
of the largest defence collaborators for India.
geopolitical developments, the Prime Minister was characteristically
upfront as he forcefully upheld the right of all stakeholders to demand
‘an open rules-based order’ in the Indo-Pacific and oppose any
aggression and encroachment there, reiterated in the context of
Ukraine-Russia military confrontation, that ‘this was not the era of
war’ and called for peaceful negations to end the ‘human misery’
resulting from the conflict and made strong advocacy for full membership
for African Union in the G20.
He was clearly advising President
Putin to heed the call for peace negotiations with Ukraine under the UN
charter but he did that without joining in the criticism of Russia for
its military intervention in that country.
On China, Prime Minister
Modi said that dark clouds of ‘coercion and confrontation’ were looming
large over the Indo-Pacific and left no one in doubt that India was
fully committed to Quad for protecting the freedom of the region. All of
this secured a complete convergence of the stand of the US and India
against China as the common adversary – India’s unlimited cooperation
with the US in areas across the spectrum – from space to ocean – gives a
message to China that any aggression in the Indian Ocean would be
effectively put down.
What was implicit in India’s approach to Russia
– and this seems to have been grasped by the US-led West finally – was
that nothing should be done to irreversibly push Putin into the Chinese
camp as this would not be in the strategic interest of either the US or
Prime Minister Modi put the development agenda on top by
highlighting the need for rebuilding supply chains disrupted by Covid
and the Ukraine-Russia conflict and demonstrated his political will in
solving problems without giving in to challenges.
He used the
occasion successfully to project India as the leader of the Global South
and hence a world power in its own right. He spoke in English and spoke
with his heart and his address was full of alliterations therefore,
made a huge impact.
It speaks of the strategic comprehension of Prime
Minister Modi and his National Security Advisor that the Prime Minister
used the address at the Congress to warn the world that Terrorism in
whatever form should be condemned without ‘ifs and buts’ as it remained a
prime threat to world security. He was in a way referring to the trap
of ‘good terrorists and bad terrorists’ the American administration had
once fallen into while dealing with Pakistan. Without naming Pakistan,
Prime Minister Modi specifically wanted action to be taken against
countries harbouring and exporting terrorism.
The danger of terrorism
is particularly live for India ever since Pakistan was successful in
reinstalling the Taliban Emirate in Kabul in 2021 and the Sino-Pak axis
was able to reach a give-and-take with the Taliban on Afghanistan
enabling China to extend its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to that
Collaboration between Pakistan and China has become deeper
after India abrogated Art 370 relating to Kashmir in August 2019 – the
two hostile neighbours of India are stepping up covert operations to
destabilise India internally and Chinese drones are now being used by
Pak ISI to drop arms and drug consignments in the border states of
Kashmir and Punjab.
The threat of radicalisation translating into the
raising of Mujahideen – including suicide bombers – cannot be treated
lightly as a desperate Pakistan is left only with the option of creating
trouble for India.
Pakistan is now able to use militant groups
across the Islamic spectrum – including not only HuM, LeT and Jaishe
Mohammad but also those linked to the radical stream of Taliban, Al
Qaeda and ISIS, in the proxy war against India. The precedence of how
SIMI an off-spring of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, gave rise to Indian
Mujahideen (IM) is a good illustration of how faith-based terror could
be churned out of communal militancy.
This US visit of Prime Minister
Modi has proved to be of immense importance for the build-up it has
given to the vision that in today’s conflict-ridden geopolitics, the
forces of democracy can prevail over the undemocratic regimes and create
a peaceful and prosperous world – the degree of unity demonstrated by
the two largest democracies of the world gave credence to this global
India and the US certainly looked like ‘equal’ partners in
this mission and this perhaps would be the strongest point of this visit
– the credit for pushing India up to this special status, squarely
going to Prime Minister Modi.
The fact that under the Modi regime
Indian economy rose to fifth position from the earlier tenth and that it
is on its way to becoming the third largest in the quickest time is a
tribute to the Prime Minister’s initiatives and strong governance.
visit also marks a crowning glory for India’s handling of international
relations and this would surely enhance the political standing of Prime
Minister Modi at home. If the economic development of India leads to
the betterment of the average Indian, the Modi regime would gain
In India, the opposition is feeling squeezed because
of the popular support enjoyed by Prime Minister Modi over and above
the party’s influence. The narrative of the Modi government promoting
majoritarianism and authoritarianism and not giving protection to the
minorities has not caught up and in a rare interaction with media in
Washington, Prime Minister affirmed that there was no discrimination in
India on the basis of caste, creed and region and that he believed in
‘sabka saath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwas’ thus placing his
government’s policy of putting all citizens on the same footing, on
Addressing a huge gathering of Indian ex-pats at Reagan
Centre on the last day of his US visit, Prime Minister Modideclared
that the ‘new journey’ started by India with the US will ‘reshape the
world’ and expressed confidence that the big investments from the US
will give a boost to job creation and innovation in India.
He emphasised that the multiple tech-linked accords with the US would help India break new ground.
Minister must be complimented for thinking big as far as India’s
economic growth was concerned and presenting India as a proud nation
willing to partner with the US on global advancement and peace.
messaging is timely and appropriate and in the months and years ahead,
India should hope to create jobs and opportunities on a scale that
should effectively tackle the problems of unemployment and poverty.
(To be concluded)