The writer is an
analyst and the
President of all
President Biden emphasized common ground with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India during a lavish state visit, publicly skirting points of friction over the government’s crackdown on human rights in India and Russia’s war in Ukraine in hopes of bolstering economic and geopolitical ties with the world’s most populous nation. Whereas, in the joint U.S.-Indian statement said: Biden and Modi strongly condemned cross-border terrorism, the use of terrorist proxies and called on Pakistan to take immediate action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terrorist attacks. Pakistan’s foreign ministry said India was using the allegations of extremism against Islamabad to deflect from the situation in Kashmir and the treatment of minorities in India. Pakistan also said it was deeply concerned over the planned transfer of advanced military technologies to India, saying such steps would not prove helpful in achieving peace in South Asia. The U.S. president treated Modi to a day of red-carpet pageantry and showered him with expansive flattery as he sought to draw India closer at a time when the United States finds itself locked in open conflict with Moscow and in an uneasy standoff with China. But even as the leaders announced a range of initiatives, they made no evident progress in resolving the disagreements that have strained the relationship in recent months. Challenged on his record on human rights and religious freedom, Modi insisted that democracy is in India’s DNA and denied that his government has fostered prejudice in serving its people. Modi added, even as demonstrators outside the White House gates protested the crackdown on dissent back in India. While Biden shied away from criticism of India’s democratic backsliding, he stood by his characterization of President Xi Jinping of China as a dictator during a campaign fund-raiser earlier. The state visit for Modi was the latest move on the geopolitical chessboard as Biden seeks more allies against increasingly aggressive governments in Moscow and Beijing. India, which remained staunchly nonaligned during the Cold War, has refused to join the American-led coalition aiding Ukraine in its war against invading Russian forces. And while India shares a certain enmity for China, it has not fully subscribed to Washington’s strategy for restraining the Asian giant in the Indo-Pacific region or defending Taiwan against aggression. In cultivating Modi, who before becoming prime minister was denied a U.S. visa because of his role in a deadly religious riot in his home state, Biden put aside his language about democracy versus autocracy being the defining struggle of his time. Biden described the two countries as fellow democracies committed to universal values without directly mentioning the increasing suppression of minority groups and opposition voices in India. Biden pronounced America’s partnership with India the most consequential in the world. Pre-empting criticism, Modi portrayed India as the mother of democracy, as he put it, using the word democracy at 17 times in an hourlong speech, without caring about the repression of Muslims and other minorities. Among other things, the Indian prime minister said that his country has grown from the world’s 10th largest economy when he last addressed Congress in 2016 to the fifth largest today, almost as if determined to force the United States to see India as a near equal, not just an emerging power, but a great and rising one. Despite his warm greeting in the chamber, several liberal Democrats in Congress boycotted Modi’s speech. The hypocritical and skeptical policy of Biden’s strategy, the ease with which the Biden administration cast aside its commitment to supporting democracy over autocracy was breathtaking in its eagerness to please Indian Prime Minister. If the U.S. expects that it can flatter Modi into security commitments in the Indo-Pacific that will translate into military support against China if Taiwan becomes a conflict zone, the U.S. is deluding itself and has failed to understand what drives Indo-U.S. relations. Mr. Biden celebrated India’s rise with a display of pomp and circumstance on the South Lawn complete with marching bands, honor guards, and a 21-gun salute. He wrapped up the day of meetings with a gala state dinner, only the third of his presidency, in a pavilion behind the White House draped in green with saffron-colored flowers at every table, the colors of the Indian flag. Two great nations, two great friends, and two great powers,” Biden said in his toast.
US woos India’s far-right PM Modi to help wage new cold war on China and Pakistan.
India, whose population recently surpassed China’s to lead the world, represents perhaps the most important of the so-called Global South nations that Biden is pursuing, both for its economic potential as well as for its geopolitical position. And Modi, without directly referring to that in his remarks at the arrival ceremony, nonetheless alluded to India’s growing power, mentioning its population of 1.4 billion three times in just a few minutes. During the Cold War, India’s relations with the US were often frosty. The country had cultivated close ties with the USSR and helped spearhead the Non-Aligned Movement, an organization of countries that rejected pressures to join either pro-US or pro-Soviet blocs. For its part, the US was a key ally of Pakistan. And by the early 1970s, the administration of US President Richard Nixon started to build a cooperative relationship with China, as an attempt, in part, to place pressure on the USSR. But as the Cold War ended and China’s economic rise became a preoccupation of US foreign policy, India — with its size and economic heft — started to be seen as a key regional ally. Despite its improved ties with the US, however, India has continued to resist what it sees as a false choice between the US and countries like President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But as Russia wages war in Ukraine and Washington seeks to isolate Moscow economically and diplomatically, that balancing act has become more difficult for India to maintain. While India has increased its purchase of weapons from countries such as France and the US and recently agreed on a roadmap to increase cooperation with the US defense industry, it remains the world’s largest importer of Russian arms. India has also joined China in buying up Russian oil at discounted prices, while the US and the European Union angle to limit Russia’s power in the global energy market. India’s status as a central player in Washington’s Asia strategy gives it significant leverage. Its ties to Russia are not likely to get in the way of its relationship with the US. Anyway, India has played this quite well, playing Russia and the US off each other, and has benefitted in the process. A country like India, which has such a strong convergence with the US on China, can create major spaces where it will differ very strongly from the US and can ride that out. While US relations with allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel have come under political scrutiny in recent years, Modi’s trip to the US has been welcomed with bipartisan support. However, Modi’s human rights record has not gone entirely unremarked. A group of more than 70 lawmakers from the US House and Senate penned a letter to Biden urging him to discuss concerns about religious freedom and journalistic expression in his talks with Modi. Modi’s high-profile reception in the US is a far cry from what he experienced before, Modi had been banned from entering the US due to allegations that he turned a blind eye to anti-Muslim violence in the western Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was the province’s chief minister. In an annual report on religious freedom in May, the US State Department expressed concern about the situation in India, noting that there were open calls for genocide against Muslims and attacks on places of worship. In May, for the fourth year in a row, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom called on the State Department to designate India as a country of particular concern. But, the United States has set human rights issues aside in order to strengthen ties.
To mark their ties, the two leaders rolled out a long list of joint initiatives on telecommunications, semiconductors, artificial intelligence, and other areas. Modi agreed to sign the Artemis Accords, a set of principles governing peaceful exploration of the moon, Mars, and other celestial bodies, and the two announced a joint mission to the International Space Station in 2024. The United States and India will open additional consulates in each other’s country. Among the most concrete agreements was a deal between General Electric and the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to manufacture in India F414 engines used to power the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The two sides also announced that India would proceed with a long-stalled $3 billion purchase of MQ-9B Predator drones from General Atomics. The military hardware sales may help wean India off Russian arms suppliers. Biden administration officials suggested the meeting was just one step in an evolution of India’s stance on the Ukraine war, part of what they characterized as bending the arc of India’s engagement. But Modi again stressed the need for dialogue and diplomacy, without condemning Russia’s attack on a neighboring country. The Indo-Pacific is where the US possibly needs India’s influence more than anywhere else right now. The US has long viewed India as a counterbalance to China’s growing influence in the region, but Delhi has never been fully comfortable with owning the tag. It may still be reluctant to do so but China continues to be one of the main catalysts driving India-US relations. But India has not shied away from taking decisions that irk China. It held a military drill with US forces last year in Uttarakhand state, which shares a Himalayan border with China. Delhi has also continued to actively participate in the Quad – which also includes the US, Australia, and Japan – despite angry reactions from Beijing. Indian diplomacy has been getting more assertive about saying that this is the country’s moment on the global stage. It has good reason – India is one of the few economic bright spots in the world right now. Geopolitics is also in its favor – most countries want a manufacturing alternative to China, and India also has a huge market with a burgeoning middle class. This makes it a good option for countries and global firms pursuing a China-plus-one policy. India relies on Moscow for nearly 50% of its defense needs. India is the world’s biggest arms importer and Russia still accounts for a major chunk of it at 45%, which Moscow’s share used to be 65% until 2016 – that’s where the US sees an opportunity. Washington’s share has grown but it’s still just 11%, behind France’s 29%. So some big-ticket defense deals are inevitable. The US is now India’s top trading partner at $130bn, but there is still huge untapped potential. The timing of the visit is also interesting as both countries will hold elections next year and the two leaders will be looking at sellable headlines for their domestic audiences.
The impact of the Indo-US strategic partnership on Pakistan’s security suggests that any power transition in South Asia shall disturb the balance of power in the region and may lead to war. The analysis, therefore, supports the balance of power hypothesis that if the power balance is disturbed, it shall bring instability. It also suggests that by changing the balance of power in India’s favor, Indo-US strategic partnership shall bring power transition in South Asia, and would therefore be perilous for Pakistan’s security.
The US government is trying to divide the BRICS bloc and recruit India for its new cold war on China. Biden doesn’t care that far-right Prime Minister Modi is closely linked to fascistic Hindu-supremacist groups that violently oppress minorities. US woos India’s far-right PM Modi to help wage a new cold war on China and Pakistan.