(June 27)Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Washington to meet with U.S. president Donald Trump — a meeting that Modi's base see as a sign that Modi is a world leader and a strong man meeting with another strong man.
|Both men see themselves as nationalists and visionaries. An article in Al Jazeera calls them both "titans of hate', arguing that both of them have been brought to power by hatred. From 2005 to 2014 Modi was actually banned from the U.S. after he was regarded as complicit in the 2002 pogroms again Muslims in his home state of Gujarat. Official figures, put the death toll from the riots at 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus. 2,500 people were injured non-fatally, and 223 more were reported missing. Other sources estimate that over 2000 people died. When Modi became PM things changed as he visited in 2014 and had a private dinner with President Obama in the White House. Modi returned several times and his present visit is the fourth since he won the Indian general election in 2014.|
Both Obama and Trump have feted Modi much to the dislike of neighboring Pakistan who have poor relations with India and worry about the developing bonds of the U.S. with India. However, Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BIP) are expected to be around and powerful for some time and may win elections in 2019. If Obama could overlook Modi's past and the anti-Muslim strong Hindu nationalist tendencies of his policy they are likely to cause no concern at all to Trump.
Both politicians stress getting the best deal possible for their countries. This makes them competitors but they can still make deals. Since 1991 India has in effect sold out their agricultural sector to mostly U.S.-based agro-businesses. The situation has led to continuing distress for small farmers. Up to 300,000 have committed suicide. Modi has to face push back against these policies. While Trump wants to push opening India to U.S. retailing giants to make America great again, Modi has adopted a "Made in India" policy a kind of mirror image of that of Trump. In many areas the policies of the two leaders are at loggerheads. Modi will be careful in what he chooses to praise about Trump.
However, there is one area where they are likely to make significant deals. The U.S. is the world's largest seller of weapons and India is the largest importer of them. As with the U.S., India makes it a budget priority to purchase weapons and spend on the military in spite of the pressing needs of its huge population.
Just before leaving for the US, the Indian government signed a deal to buy 22 U.S. Predator drones for a cool $2 billion. This will do nothing to alleviate poverty in India or solve the many other problems India faces. It will also probably increase tensions with its neighbor Pakistan.
The disagreements between the two leaders were downplayed. Modi is a strong supporter of the Paris agreement while Trump withdrew from it. Modi's protectionist trade policies are unlikely to help Trump close the trade deficit between the two countries. However, these problems were not discussed and instead there was mutual praise, backslapping and bragging with big promises. It was all public show which both leaders appreciate.
There is no sign that Modi is lessening his support of Hindu sectarianism. Just recently he appointed the Hindu priest, Yogi Adiyanath as chief minister of Ultar Pradesh. He is described by Al Jazeera as "the undisputed mascot of rabid, vitriolic, and abusive supporters of Hindu sectarianism". His rise to power is described in this article. Groups that at one time were on the fringe and marginal in India now appear to be part of the mainstream.