Thatcher or Hitler?

America is seriously angry and bitter about Indian elections. David Cameron and Mahinda Rajapaksa are the only leaders who have so far welcomed the BJP victory. There is still no tweet from Washington.

Americans were hoping (just like us) that BJP/NDA will fall short of
absolute majority and that the secular front can pull together a wobbly
coalition. The margin of victory has probably left them stunned.

Also things are expected to get worse if/when Hilary Clinton is installed in the palace by the Potomac in 2016? She was the inspiration behind a “get Modi” campaign which did not pan out (see below) and now she will have an angry and bitter partner in Asia to thank for.

One thing is for sure: Modi will never get his US visa. We presume that the moment such a visa is issued there will be a thousand cases brought on behalf of Gujarat victims and for the visa being issued in violation of US law. 

So how do we expect Modi’s relations to develop (or not) with the USA? A few commentators have taken a close look and make some very interesting points. Kevin Lees brings up the Western perspective when he talks about Thatcher and Hitler. David Danelo is more respectful towards Indian/Hindu civilization and talks about the avatars of Shiva: benefactor or destroyer.
to maintain silence on granting a visa to BJP leader Narendra Modi, US
has said the heads of state and government are eligible for A1 visas and
no individual automatically qualifies for an American visa.

“Heads of state and heads of government are eligible for A1 visa
classification under the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act). No
individual automatically qualifies for a US visa,” state department
spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“US law exempts foreign
government officials, including heads of state and heads of government
from certain potential inadmissibility grounds,” Psaki said when asked
about the possibility of issuing visa to Modi, whose party-led NDA is
projected by exit polls to form the next government in India.

While the Obama Administration continues its heralded pivot toward
Asia, it’s finding that Asia itself is pivoting in new and unpredictable

But from the U.S. perspective, Modi’s rise could be the most
challenging of all. Even though the bilateral relationship is now at its
lowest point since Obama took office, its current state could feel warm
and fuzzy compared to what lies ahead.
Among the priorities of the
Obama administration in its final two-and-a-half years, the challenge of
restoring strong ties with India should lie at the top of the Asia
agenda. No amount of pivoting will matter much if U.S. ties to the
world’s largest democracy—and, despite its current stumbles, one of the
world’s largest emerging economies—lie in tatters in January 2017.

The most beguiling aspect of Modi’s likely victory is that no one
knows exactly how Modi will approach U.S. relations. U.S. diplomacy is
at least partially to blame for that.

But the main concern isn’t that Modi might be denied entry to the
United States as the duly elected prime minister of a country of 1.27
billion people, or even that Modi might hold a grudge against the United
States and its European allies for shunning him throughout the 2000s.
Rather, it’s that Modi will favor relations with other nations rather
than focus on India’s relationship with the United States.

While Western
governments largely turned their backs to him, Modi spent the next
thirteen years inviting Chinese, Japanese, and Middle Eastern investors
and officials to his state, developing relationships that would
influence his foreign policy as India’s next prime minister.
Powell, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to India, got around to meeting
Modi for the first time only in February, and BJP officials grumble that
she has much warmer ties with the leaders of the ruling Indian National
Congress. Accordingly, the greatest peril isn’t necessarily that
U.S.-Indian relations will become hostile so much as that Modi will
simply ignore the United States and look to Japan, China and the Middle

Moreover, a BJP-led government would hold an incredibly different
cultural orientation than the outgoing Congress-led government. In an insightful piece for The Financial Times
last month, Indian-British economist Deepak Lal wondered whether Modi
would be a ‘Thatcher’ or a ‘Hitler’; he argued that, unlike the
Nehru-Gandhi family and other English-speaking, Western-educated,
secular elites within Congress, Modi believes in ‘modernization without
Westernization’. Lal ultimately concluded that Modi would be a
‘Thatcher,’ not a ‘Hitler’.

Many influential Americans have held the role in the past, including
industrial economist John Kenneth Galbraith in the 1960s, public
intellectual and eventual New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in
the 1970s, and former Ohio governor Richard Celeste in the 1990s.
Powell’s successor should be someone of equally prominent caliber—it
wouldn’t hurt if the Obama administration appointed a high-profile
Indian-American businessman or even a prominent conservative whose views
might align more closely with Modi’s.


12 was Election Day in Varanasi, India, the holy, mystical city on the
Ganges River where pilgrims come for bathing and blessing—awaiting the
monsoon that will mercifully end May’s dry, dusty heat. Lord Shiva
claimed Varanasi as his home in Hindu tradition, and Gautama Buddha
preached his first sermon after enlightenment just north of the city.
Also called Banaras and Kashi, Varanasi has been continuously inhabited
for 4,000 years.
“Banaras is older than history, older than tradition,
older even than legend,” said Mark Twain, also noting the city, which he
visited in 1896, looked twice as old as all of them put together.

Varanasi’s appearance may have not changed
much since Twain’s visit, but the city’s political significance has—at
least for the 16th Lok Sabha, India’s five-year parliamentary
elections. For six weeks, and over nine Election Days, Indian news
media outlets have broadcast live from one polling station after
another. Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist and Gujarati economic
miracle worker from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), must win a seat as
a member of parliament to be appointed India’s Prime Minister. Although
he is running in Vadodara from his home state of Gujarat, Modi is also
contesting Varanasi as a demonstration of his patriotism and religious
devotion. “Ma Ganga has called me,” said Modi, referring to the sacred
river where pilgrims bathe and reverently offer the dead, cremated

There is no comparable American analogy to
this fusion of religion, history, and politics. Imagine a U.S.
presidential candidate centering their campaign fortunes in a city that
was America’s version of Jamestown, Virginia; Vatican City; and Sumeria
Although other candidates oppose Modi in Varanasi—notably
Arvind Kejriwal, whose upstart Aam Adami Party’s anti-corruption message
resonates with many in India—exit polls indicate the BJP will lead
India’s next government and, on May 16, send Modi to New Delhi as Prime

What will a Modi victory mean for relations
between the world’s two largest democracies? Modi has an antagonistic
streak, and past calls have arisen from The Economist to Salman
Rushdie for his censure. In 2005, the United States denied Modi a
diplomatic visa for perceived (though unproven) involvement in Gujarat’s
2002 anti-Muslim riots when he was the state’s chief minister. Former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton embarked on a “get Modi” policy while
in office, funding European NGOs on a quest to find mass graves—which
never turned up. Although President Obama appears to have quietly
reversed the isolation, Modi cannot easily forget being singled out as a
Clinton enemy. With Modi as India’s leader, a future Hillary Clinton
presidency would present a worst-case scenario for U.S.-India relations.

To his current and future human rights
critics, Modi can point to the increased Muslim vote for BJP in 2014, up
6% from 2009 according to exit polls. Additionally, in April 2014,
senior Pakistani diplomats expressed preference for Modi for Prime
Minister, saying he “could provide the strong leadership necessary for
peace talks.” Although no one suggests Modi sees all religions the
same—in a Reuters article last year, Modi was quoted comparing a
Gujarati Muslim killed in 2002 to a puppy being struck by a car—the
votes speak for themselves.  
To Muslims in both India and Pakistan, Modi
may represent the devil they know; a leader whose economic success and
reputation for leadership provides stability and confidence. More
importantly, given Modi’s Indian nationalism, these voting patterns
suggest India’s Muslims who supported the BJP see themselves as Indians
first and Muslims second.

The powerful Indian nationalist sentiment
Modi has tapped into draws upon allegiances and ties some Americans
might find troubling. At a May 8 BJP rally in Varanasi, Modi honored a
115 year old Indian colonel who served under Subhash Chandra Bose in the
Indian National Army (INA). Known to most Indians as Netaji, Bose was
recognized by the Axis Powers during World War II as India’s rightful
whose support he sought against the British to help India
achieve independence. INA soldiers fought alongside the Japanese against
the British in the Burma campaign, were defeated, and 300 officers were
tried for treason. In August 1945, Netaji (Bose) died in a plane crash
in Japanese-occupied Taiwan.

Outside of India, the INA’s legacy has been
mostly forgotten. But within the country—and especially among India’s
rising business titans—Netaji is revered. “I believe India would have
been a powerful exporter much before China if only Netaji had a front
seat in our policy making along with (Jawaharlal) Nehru,” said Infosys
Technologies founder Narayana Murthy at Netaji’s 114th birthday celebration. “Netaji was one of the most courageous leaders in India.”

It is the name absent from that list which
speaks loudest. Mahatma Gandhi, whom many Americans see as India’s most
important founding father, does not command the same respect throughout
his country.
Although Gandhi’s 1948 assassination inspired national
mourning, it was sponsored by the Hindu Mahasabha, the spiritual and
political forerunner to the BJP. The conspirators saw killing Gandhi as a
necessary evil, believing his policies would destroy India. In the
Hindu nationalist view, although Gandhi led a powerful nonviolent
resistance movement, he was responsible for giving away Pakistan,

setting India on a ruinous economic course, and promoting the country’s
cultural division into 22 official languages.

No one really knows how Modi will affect
India’s international relations, but his hardline conservatism and long
memory suggest he will be friendly towards countries who have
steadfastly supported India’s independence.
Ties to Russia have endured
since the Cold War, when India embraced the Soviet Union after the
United States supported Pakistan. In 2007, Japanese Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe visited Netaji’s memorial in Kolkata, a gesture Modi is
unlikely to forget.
Relations with China could benefit from India’s
economic rise, should India grow as a consumer market, or become
strained through geopolitical competition, if skirmishes occurred over
the Arunachal Pradesh or Aksai Chin border disputes.

In the Mahabharata, the epic Hindu
scriptures, Lord Shiva is depicted as a multi-formed enigma, embodying
both honor and brilliance as well as invincibility and terror.
supporters treat the 2002 violence—in which they tacitly acknowledge his
responsibility—with an Indian equivalent of a Gallic shrug: it was
unfortunate, they say, but sometimes good people are forced to do bad
things. His opponents respond, correctly, that Modi’s victory repudiates
Gandhi’s vision of religious unity, and is thus an Indian tragedy.
Shiva has many forms in the Hindu tradition, but the two most dominant
are as either a benefactor or a destroyer.

One of every five people—22% of the world’s
population—lives in either India or the United States. By 2025,
according to current projections, India will overtake China as the
world’s most populous country. “They are much the most interesting
people in the world—and the nearest to being incomprehensible,” Mark
Twain concluded about Indians. “Their character and their history, their
customs and their religion, confront you with riddles at every
turn—riddles which are a trifle more perplexing after they are explained
than they were before.”
If Ma Ganga could speak, she could not have
better explained the man poised to lead her dynamic and paradoxical
nation. Only time—or, perhaps, the sacred river—can tell which of Lord
Shiva’s many incarnations the devout Hindu leader will become.




Brown Pundits