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Jun 22, 2023

Biden welcomes Indian PM Modi to White House: Simple-Minded Strategy


June 22, 2023

It is a classical grand game; the Number One power tries to team up with Number Three power with the hope to vanquish the Number Two power. Today, Biden welcomes Indian PM Modi to White House, but Biden’s hope is clearly targeted in making sure a US-India partnership would contain China. The challenge is where Biden’s high morality stands as well as how Biden’s gamble may play out.

Unfortunately, geopolitics are complicated and simple-minded game-plan may not last long enough to yield the desired outcome. In the 1970’s, Nixon-Kissinger approached China with the strategic goal to contain/defeat Soviet Union. The Soviet Union fully collapsed in the 1990’s, but China executed the “reform and open door” policy successfully. Now, the US is still the number one global power, but China is catching up fast.

One classical reason that a superpower starts falling behind is losing self-confidence and momentum. The tragedy is that people usually blame the competitor without devoting real efforts to improve or correct the shortcomings rooted at home.

Further, no one is fool and India, especially under Modi, has their dreams and aspirations. India, like any rising power, is not going to be satisfied by only being Number two and subordinate to the US forever. The US-India partnership will cost the US more than India. Not only does the US lose the respect of the world with double standards on human rights etc., but at the same time the US will keep sliding down in the world competition because domestic challenges including weak leadership are not properly addressed.


‘It’s very awkward’: Biden throws lavish state dinner for India’s right-wing PM Modi


Francesca Chambers, USA TODAY

Thu, June 22, 2023 at 2:05 AM PDT

WASHINGTON − India’s democracy is at a weak point. The U.S. government has accused India of engaging in significant human rights abuses.

And yet, on Thursday, the U.S. president is throwing India’s prime minister a lavish state dinner.

For a politician who has made strengthening democracy a central theme of his administration, President Joe Biden’s courtship of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscores the tension between his campaign principles and the realities of being president.

Biden’s administration has accused India’s government of participating in unlawful and arbitrary killings, restricting freedom of speech and allowing violence against religious, racial and ethnic minorities.

“It’s very awkward, and embarrassing even, to have the rhetorical emphasis on democracy for the foreign policy, while at the same time this critical partner is seen as backsliding,” said Irfan Nooruddin, a professor of Indian politics at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Modi pressed on human rights

Progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib said she would boycott Modi’s address to Congress during the visit over his “long history of human rights abuses, anti-democratic actions, targeting Muslims & religious minorities, and censoring journalists.” She described the conduct in a tweet as “unacceptable.”

“It’s shameful that Modi has been given a platform at our nation’s capital,” said Tlaib, D-Mich.

Democratic Reps. Cori Bush, of Missouri, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, also are protesting the event.

The White House said Biden would raise human rights questions with Modi when they speak privately. A spokesman stressed it is a topic Biden routinely addresses.

“Certainly human rights is of concern to the United States, and it’s a foundational element to President Biden’s foreign policy,” White House national security strategic communications coordinator John Kirby said.

A group of more than 70 lawmakers asked Biden in a letter Tuesday to “discuss the full range of issues” facing the two nations during the visit. They noted that “independent, credible reports reflect troubling signs in India” and told him that “friends can and should discuss their differences in an honest and forthright way.”

“We think it’s important that we have a strong relationship between India and the United States, regardless of who India’s prime minister is, but we also think it’s important that the president raise these human rights issues and make it clear that the institutions of democracy − free press, freedom of religion, a free judiciary, an independent judiciary − these are all things that ensure a democracy,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat who was born in India, said in an interview. “And without a democracy, it’s going to be much harder for the United States and India to have a long-term, strong relationship.”

Discrimination, harassment and erosion of trust

Trust in India’s judiciary system is also eroding. Earlier this year, a court convicted one of Modi’s chief political opponents, Rahul Gandhi, of defamation for disparaging the surname “Modi” in a case that is viewed as highly political.

Modi and his political party have increasingly used government institutions to target political opponents. Discriminatory policies against the Muslim population and harassment of journalists and government critics grew significantly under Modi, Freedom House president Michael Abramowitz said.

“So it is still a democracy, as they say. It’s got a thriving election system. But it’s these other policies that cause concern for Freedom House,” Abramowitz said.

Modi has not fielded questions at a news conference since he became prime minister. But the White House said he and Biden would speak with the media on Thursday.

Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democratic congressman who co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said that the U.S. should be “candid” about freedom of press and human rights questions.

But the congressman, who said he plans to attend the state dinner, argued, “The imperfections in democracy should not prevent the alliance of democracies.”

Ukraine on the menu

India has refused to denounce Russia’s war on Ukraine and has continued to buy Russian oil amid the conflict.

The United States has not been able to put meaningful pressure on India to join the U.S. and its allies in working to cripple Russia’s economy. And Modi’s government views itself as having a lot of leverage in the relationship, Nooruddin said, because of how focused the Biden administration has been on maintaining positive relations with the nation that it hopes can serve as a counterweight to China.

The war will be on the United States’ agenda during the meeting, the White House says, but the conversation is likely to focus on the importance of territorial sovereignty and the humanitarian assistance India has given Ukraine.

“We haven’t since the beginning of this war, nor are we going to start, browbeating or arm-twisting other nations about the way they’re looking at this war in Ukraine,” Kirby told reporters Tuesday.

Emerging superpower

Biden has sought to deepen the United States’ security partnership with India through a group known as the Quad. It is part of his administration’s efforts to counter China’s global influence.

With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, India will soon be the world’s third-largest economy, behind only China and the United States.

Rossow said India’s growing economy and competition between the U.S. and China are at the heart of Biden’s decision to roll out the red carpet for Modi, who attended a large rally in Texas with former President Donald Trump in an earlier visit to the U.S.

Modi held a reciprocal rally for Trump in 2020 when the former president visited IndiaHe is expected to host Biden in September during the Group of 20 Summit. The two leaders also met a month ago in Japan.

“You’re not going to see the big theatrics I think that you saw with the Trump administration,” Rossow said. “So maybe not the warmth and bombast that you saw in the previous administration but regular engagement.”

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