The friendship between Donald Trump and Narendra Modi was well documented during the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston last year and the ‘Namaste Trump’ one in February this year with the US President calling the Prime Minister a “great guy, loved by the people of India”.
With the US presidential elections less than two weeks away, American media is looking at what a Trump re-election or a Joe Biden win would mean for Modi and India.
Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are set for the final presidential debate on Thursday. The US President last month claimed that he has “great support” from Modi while son Donald Trump Jr warned that Biden was “bad for India”.
Here’s what the US media said about the election’s effect on India:
The Atlantic published a list of “populist and nationalist leaders” with the most to gain from a second Trump term and it includes Modi.
It said that the Trump-Modi bond is rooted in their shared interests, which includes security, defense, and concerns about a rising China, as well as their similar leadership styles.
“They’ve sought to curtail criticism, be it from the press or peaceful protesters, and have utilized exclusionary, nationalist sentiment to stoke their respective bases.”
The Atlantic said that in Trump, “Modi found a president willing to ignore his Hindu-nationalist agenda.” The article mentioned how Trump did not comment on the riots which engulfed Delhi during his India visit in February 2020.
“Still, it’s hard to imagine that Biden would prove as willing as Trump to overlook certain issues, such as Modi’s decision to revoke the constitutional autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir or his move to alter India’s citizenship laws to exclude Muslims from neighbouring countries.”
The article also quoted India’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2016 to 2018 Navtej Sarna as saying that such criticisms wouldn’t amount to much, regardless of which president delivered them.
After his India visit, Trump praised Modi but did not mention the Delhi riots. Both the leaders came under criticism for continuing with their meetings and sightseeing. Modi only acknowledged the violence and appealed for peace on day 3 of the riots, after Trump left the country.
NPR also discussed how the US-India relations will change in case of a change in the White House. NPR’s Lauren Frayer said that “Modi and Trump are both nationalists who’ve both been accused of discriminating against minorities, and they’ve had each other’s backs.”
Frayer also said that Trump has been inclined to take Modi’s word over that of human rights groups and the United Nations, who have noted a spike in hate crimes under Modi’s rule.
NPR quoted Bidisha Biswas, a political scientist at Western Washington University, as saying that a Biden-Harris administration would speak up more.
Frayer concluded that if Biden were to “raise the issues of human rights, Kashmir or the environment, he’s likely to do so in a way that does not jeopardize ever-closer ties with India, which are in both countries’ interests.”
In a September article, Foreign Policy said that a Biden-Harris administration would mean a “harder eye” on Kashmir. It noted how Kashmir is not the only issue where Biden has raised concerns much more so than those ever raised by his former boss Barack Obama.
“Biden has also strongly come out against the Citizenship Amendment Act as well as the National Register of Citizens—both projects of the Modi-led government that critics charge will make it easier to discriminate against and ultimately kick out Muslims from India.”
Foreign Policy also noted that when asked about the unrest in Kashmir during a campaign event for her own presidential bid in September 2019, Harris said, “we are all watching”. The Modi government had announced the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August, 2019.
“She implicitly attacked the Modi government’s handling of the issue up to that point by calling out human rights abuses inflicted by India,” the article noted.