Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s condemnation of the violence by Trump supporters in Washington D.C. and his desire for a peaceful and smooth transition of power in the United States should have been welcomed by one and all as most world leaders have expressed the same feeling in different words. But Indian leaders from the Opposition parties, particularly from the Left and the Congress, found it an opportunity to take a dig at the Prime Minister. Some said, “Mr Modi should first set his own house in order before commenting on violence in the United States.” Communist Party of India leader D. Raja spewed venom and reminded PM Modi of his support for Trump. “It is ironical that our Prime Minister talks about a smooth transition of power when he attended the ‘Howdy Modi’ programme and campaigned for Mr Trump,” he said.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor came out with backhanded compliments for PM Modi. “It is a good sign that India has distanced itself from the Donald Trump administration… I don’t believe it should have any implication for our bilateral relations with the US but it’s a sobering reminder. The Prime Minister expressing concern was a good gesture, it showed that he and the government are distancing themselves from those who believed in is baar bhi Trump sarkar,” he remarked.
While one can understand such irresponsible statements coming from the Left as they have become a spent force and are looking for opportunities to settle scores with their ideological adversary, the Congress should have acted more responsibly. Whoever comes to power, it is the interest of the country that determines foreign relations and not personal likes and dislikes. The India-US relation is not hostage to who is in power.
The Congress and Left leaders, and also others in India with scant regards to national interest, made the Trump election look as if the Indian Prime Minister had something personal at stake. They failed to appreciate that the increasing clout of the Indian community, demonstrated unequivocally at the Howdy Modi event, had forced both Republicans and Democrats to field a person of Indian origin as their Vice Presidential candidate. This is the triumph of the India diaspora in the US which have emerged stronger and are not getting the due they deserve.
PM Modi’s bonhomie with Trump should not be seen as his personal triumph but the triumph of India in the United States. The Indian Prime Minister has said it time and again that he knows that the respect he is getting is the respect the world is giving to 135 crore Indians who have expressed themselves strongly by voting decisively for a strong government. It is PM Modi’s personal charm that he makes friends out of enemies and trusted friends out of fence sitters. And one cannot grudge the leader for that.
It is not that India gained majorly due to Trump. On the contrary, Trump caused harm to India by walking out of the Climate Change Accord and by commenting adversely about India on many occasions. But PM Modi never allowed this to come between the India-US relations. Both are strong democracies and need each other for bilateral strength and a balanced multilateral world order. Both share the same ideological moorings and both need to fight the battle together to make the world a better place.
Those who are peeved due to the Modi-Trump bonhomie should not forget the bonhomie Modi enjoyed with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Don’t forget the expression when he called Obama by his first name—“my friend Barack”—and the way the latter tried to seek PM Modi’s attention. It appeared as if he was trying to make amends for his sin of boycotting him when he was the chief minister of Gujarat and for denying him the US visa under influence of the Leftist and Human Rights Brigade. The Prime Minister did not allow the events from the past to shadow his equation with the US President. By now we know well of the opinion Obama has about Rahul Gandhi and other leaders.
So why would PM Modi and Joe Biden not have a cordial relation to the benefit of both India and the United States. No thaw is needed since there never was any problem. The first congratulatory message to Biden had come way back on 7 November 2020 when PM Modi had tweeted: “Congratulations @JoeBiden on your spectacular victory! As the VP, your contribution to strengthening Indo-US relations was critical and invaluable. I look forward to working closely together once again to take India-US relations to greater heights.” He had also congratulated Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and said: “Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans. I am confident that the vibrant India-US ties will get even stronger with your support and leadership.”
Those who are anticipating that India-US relations will suffer should be ready for a great surprise. They would not be able to further their politics since their anti-India agenda would never work. The Prime Minister has already set the agenda. After his telephonic conversations with Biden, he tweeted: “We reiterated firm commitment to the India-US strategic partnership and discussed our shared priorities and concerns, Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and cooperation in India-Pacific region.”
From Biden’s side, the response was: “The President-elect noted that he looked forward to working closely with Prime Minister Modi on shared global challenges, including containing Covid-19 and defending against future health crisis, tackling the threat of climate change, launching the global economic recovery, strengthening democracy at home and abroad, and maintaining a secure and prosperous India-Pacific region”.
India has stakes in the US democracy in the same way the US has in India. India wants a strong US with robust institutions so that democratic processes do not get derailed by vested interests. Every leader believing in democracy wishes that the oldest democracy in the world should not falter. The Prime Minister’s statement should be seen in that context. India has spoken through him. The ideology of democracy has spoken through him.
The writer is convener of the Media Relations Department of the BJP and represents the party as a spokesperson on TV debates. He has authored the most authentic book on the Prime Minister, called ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’. The views expressed are personal.
PM Narendra Modi’s bonhomie with Trump should not be seen as his personal triumph but the triumph of India in the United States. The Indian Prime Minister has said it time and again that he knows that the respect he is getting is the respect the world is giving to 135 crore Indians who have expressed themselves strongly by voting decisively for a strong government.