By Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations
Washington DC, June 25, 2017. India achieved tremendous progress from 2004 to 2014 under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s leadership. Successive US Administrations were competing each other to honor the Indian Prime Minister recognizing India’s place in the world. There was a rare unified voice of support from both political parties in the US.
The relationship Prime Minister Manmohan Singh government was able to build with the United States and other governments were unprecedented. Prime Minister Singh’s leadership brought the world leaders to consider India as a deserving member of the UN Security Council and a responsible nuclear power.
But, ever since, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in New Delhi making Mr. Narendra Modi as its Prime Minster, decisions of his government and the free-hand offered to vigilante groups to do whatever they want, from intimidation and harassment to looting and lynching religious minorities has caused tremendous damage to the image and reputation of India on international stage. It has sullied the image of India and affected India’s standing in the world, to the extent of hitting a pause button in bilateral relations between India and many industrialized nations including the US.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological group and the power behind Mr. Modi’s BJP party, wants to create a Hindu nation State – more like a Hindu version of Pakistan. RSS continues to attack Christian church goers in one part of the country or the other, almost on a daily basis. The state governments run by BJP are actively targeting and shutting down churches and church run organizations.
Compassion International, a US based Christian charity helping 165,000 poor children in India was shut down by Modi government in 2017 on false charges with no regard for their own laws.
Recently, the appointment of a hardline Hindu monk to be the Chief Minister of India’s largest state, Utter Pradesh, sent a chilling message to the world about the direction in which Prime Minister Modi wants to take India in the future. Modi’s election has made every country to tread cautiously towards India. But because India is a large economy, the world is forced to deal with her in spite of Mr. Modi and not because of him.
In 2014, President Obama refused to honor Prime Minister Modi with a State Banquet at the White House in spite of enormous pressure brought on him when the later visited the US on a UN Visa. A disappointed Prime Minister refused to eat lunch with President Obama claiming he was fasting.
Modi thought his rehab would be complete if only he could trick the President of the United States to invite him personally to the White House. So he invited Obama to be the Chief Guest at India’s Republic day Parade in January 2015, hoping the visiting head of state, as a norm, would reciprocate the courtesy by extending a personal invitation to him. Unfortunately it was not to be.
President Obama gave a heartfelt speech on why the vision of BJP/RSS is detrimental to the future of India and left for Washington without extending an invitation to Mr. Modi. A shell shocked BJP and RSS did not know how to react for two full days.
Had there been another Prime Minister instead of Modi, the White House which hosted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a lavish State Banquet in his honor would have gone over and above to help improve US-India relationship. But instead what we saw was a halfhearted invitation to the Prime Minister of India (and not to Mr. Modi personally) in the last days of Obama Administration, to get him to sign few bilateral agreements in Washington.
Disappointed Modi’s supporters made a tactical shift soon after by supporting Trump Campaign by misrepresenting themselves hiding their real motive in rehabilitating Mr. Modi’s image. Since then there has been plenty of talk about improving Mr. Modi’s relations with President Trump. But the fact is, from the Presidents of tiny nations like El Salvador and Panama to Presidents of Egypt and Philippines were invited to the White House, not to mention the Chinese Premier, long before the Trump Administration asked Mr. Modi to come.
Contrary to media hype seasoned observers would say, it is not the sign of improving relationships but an invitation out of necessity based on the argument that India and US must work together regardless of who happens to run the government in India.
Had there been anyone else as the Prime Minister instead of Modi, India would not have lost its standing in the world. They could have benefited from the trajectory Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had set for India. Even Arun Jaitley or Rajnath Singh from Modi’s own Hindu party could have done a better job of saving India’s prestige in the international stage.