Modi's US State Visit Has Revealed the True Colours of His Regime before the Whole World
by Dipankar Bhattacharya

Ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi is once again banking on his so-called global image to shore up his fast declining local stocks. Even as Manipur has been burning since early May with more than 100 lives lost, more than 200 churches burnt and more than 50,000 displaced people struggling to survive in relief camps, the PM left the crisis-ridden state in the lurch and flew to America on a state visit. This was his sixth US visit in nine years. And the Biden Administration has taken full advantage of the Modi government's desperate craving for a US state visit ahead of the elections to tighten the American strategic grip around India.

Leaving aside the optics and self-congratulatory propaganda of the Modi government and Godi Media, we should focus on the Biden-Modi joint statement to assess the real content of the visit. The 58-paragraph-long statement touches almost all subjects under the sun, but the focus clearly is on deepening and broadening defence ties which can only mean greater strategic dependence of India on the US and consequent limiting of India's strategic autonomy. India has already been drawn into alliances like the Quad (comprising USA, Australia, Japan and India) and I2U2 (Israel, India, USA, UAE) primarily to serve the US policy of containment and encirclement of China and consolidation of the US-Israel nexus.

The joint statement has all the imprints of deeper strategic inroads made by the US in India's space and technology sectors and the domain of defence. While the US will now have greater access to the Indian Navy and naval resources, India has been lured into buying 31 hugely overpriced Predator drones costing $3.1 billion, a deal that has all the trappings of another Rafael scam. There are of course some proposals of collaboration in the manufacturing sector as in the MoU signed between General Electric and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited regarding production of F-414 jet engines or the MoU regarding the setting up of a semiconductor assembling and testing facility in Gujarat. The investment amount will however have to be borne mostly by India and only time will tell if India really benefits from any significant transfer of technology.

India's increasingly US-centric foreign policy has not just prohibitive financial costs but more importantly adverse diplomatic and political implications. In India's own national interest, India needs peace in the region and cordial relations with all neighbours. India's border dispute with China demands diplomatic resolution, but if India becomes a close ally in pursuing the US strategy of containment and encirclement of China that would only broaden and deepen India's antagonism with China. The more India gets drawn into the US-Israel camp, the more it gets alienated from not just all immediate neighbours but also the Gulf countries making it actually easier for China to expand its sphere of influence. The Akhand Bharat map in the new Parliament building has already made India's neighbours including Nepal apprehensive about India's perceived expansionist territorial ambitions.

For considerable sections of American media and public opinion including many in the Indian diaspora or the Indian-American community, the Modi visit meant an occasion to share their concern about the crisis of India's democracy and question the persecution faced by dissenters, the increased violence, insecurity and discrimination affecting India's religious minorities and the alarming erosion of media freedom, civil liberties and human rights in Modi's India. Seventy-five US lawmakers wrote to President Biden expressing their concern, several boycotted Modi's address, and hundreds protested on the streets of America. Former President Obama too publicly raised these concerns while Modi was asked in his White House joint Press Conference what his government planned to do to remedy the situation. Modi gave a tautological answer Invoking India's Constitution to rule out any possibility of discrimination and human rights violation simply because India is a constitutionality proclaimed democratic republic. But the angry reaction to Obama's comment and the press conference question from the BJP troll army as well as senior BJP leaders has once again given away the truth!

Sabrina Siddiqui, the Wall Street Journal reporter who asked the question about the decline of democracy in India is being trolled as a Pakistani agent. The White House and international journalists have condemned this harassment of Ms Siddiqui. Even Barack Obama is being trolled by BJP leaders as ‘Hussein Obama’, projecting him as a Muslim and therefore biased against India. Shamefully, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma retorted to a journalist on Twitter that Assam Police will first deal with the Hussein Obamas in India before bothering about the American Obama! Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are also busy rubbishing Obama for the bombing of Muslim countries during his Presidency, coolly ignoring the fact that the Modi government has been a vocal supporter of US foreign policy vis-a-vis Muslim countries!

Modi's address to the joint session of US Congress also merits attention - though not for his mistaken reading of the teleprompter text that made him talk about investigating in the girl child and laying of thousands of miles of political fibre! It is the text and not the PM's delivery which should attract our attention. Talking about the 75th anniversary of India's independence Modi once again talked about one thousand years of foreign rule. It is this rejection of one thousand years of Indian history and heritage that lies at the root of the toxic narrative of Hindu supremacist majoritarianism, projects Indian Muslims as invaders and the 'internal enemy' and provides the ideological justification for the relentless campaign of hate and violence against the Muslim community which now threatens to assume genocidal proportions with calls for boycott and expulsion of Muslims from one state after another.

During the Trump Presidency, Modi had turned his US visit into a campaign platform for Trump with his loud exhortation of 'Abki Baar Trump Sarkar'! The American voters, including many of Modi's audience in the Indian diaspora, were wise enough not to be misled by Modi's cheerleading clamour for a second term for Trump. While obliging Modi with a pre-poll state visit and its attendant publicity, the Biden Administration has however made sure that the true character of the Modi regime got revealed before the whole world. Just as the American voters turned down the Modi clamour for a renewed Trump victory, let's hope the Indian electors also display the maturity to see through the truth of Modi's claims to 'global leadership' and reject him for inflicting on India the unmitigated disaster that his regime has been.