Why there will never be an “India Lobby”

Back in the 2000s on the Sepia Mutiny blog I would get frustrated with commenters who would talk about India as if it was analogous to Cuba or Israel, in that a group of American nationals with family ties could influence the shape of American policy. This was always a crazy proposition.

The reason that focused American ethnic lobbies could shape Cuba and Israel policy is that these are small nations which to be frank don’t matter that much.

There’s no Germany lobby. There’s no Russia lobby. There’s no China lobby. These nations are too important to get caught up in pure interest group politics. Similarly, there will never be an “India lobby.” Even personal relationships and affinities between leaders are irrelevant when realpolitik is too important. Think of the fact that Trump clearly has an affinity for Putin, but the American government continues to impose various sanctions on Russia.

Note: Because of its embeddedness in the Great Power jockeying between the USA, China, and India, there will also never be a “Pakistan lobby.”

30 thoughts on “Why there will never be an “India Lobby””

  1. Makes sense, this is why Kamala being half-Indian origin isn’t really a significant pro or con for US-India relations.

    My view is the US will probably lean more pro-India because of concerns about China.

    So don’t stress, and enjoy this video of Mindy and Kamala making dosas:

  2. Sorry Razib, everyone in Pakistan knows the INDIA LOBBY and the EVIL SENATOR LARRY PRESSLER were why the US didn’t sell us our F16s and they don’t support us in lifting the Hindu jackboot from the tender neck of the Kashmiris.

    1. pk is destined to be in the Chinese orbit. so realpolitik will invert the cold war alignment re: USA, where pk was pro USA and India anti soft against.

    2. Who was that senator who in 2000s said India was doing something in Baluchistan, Pakistani show still play that footage ad nauseam

    3. Sorry to rain on your parade Ali. But the US has figured out that Pakistan is its enemy. Pakistan succored bin Laden for years. Pakistan trains, arms, and sponsors the Taliban whose mission is to murder American troops and turn Afghanistan back into a terrorist haven.

      Not only should the US not sell Pakistan more weapons, the US should blow up the weapons we already sold Pakistan. The US should name and sanction Pakistan as its enemy.

  3. I think Razib’s larger point is correct, but I’d question his view on Russia. I don’t think there’s any pragmatic reason we’re opposed to them (or Iran), but a combination of inertia and the activist-mandarins that populate the Blob.

  4. In Turkey it is a common theme (though was more common before the recent radicalization of Erdogan) among Turkish nationalists to complain about why there are strong Armenian, Greek and even Jewish lobbies in the West and no strong Turkish lobby. Though, to be honest, Turkey benefited from the Jewish lobby in the West on some national issues for decades before Erdogan became strongly pro-Palestine; so even if a strong Turkish lobby in the West might not be so feasible, some third party lobbies can still be beneficial to Turkey from a Turkish nationalist POV if there are enough mutual interests between Turkey and the third party lobby in question.

  5. I dont even get the Russian thing. Like US seems more worried than EU countries like Germany and all. A bit like S China sea, where ASEAN countries and all are muted.

    Perhaps its only when US actually withdraws from either region this countries will speak up more.

    1. It’s for the military-industrial-complex. If we don’t have Russia to fear then there is no reason to spend so much on defending Europe.

    2. On a related tangent:

      Gaddafi of Libya was a Russian ally, he was sodomized to death with a bayonet by American backed rebels, that bitch-Hillary Clinton,all giggly, joked to reporters ‘We came, we saw, he died’.

      How did Americans expect the Russians to act in Syria? To let ‘revolutionaries’ put dynamite sticks up Assad’s arabian booty?

      These are not just differences of opinions.

      1. On another related tangent:

        Saddam was a hardcore Indian ally. But clearly due to lack of capacity India didn’t help him, I am certain if Russia had pitched in he would have been alive.

        Interestingly, a lot of Saddam’s Iraqi military officers were trained in India or by Indians. When he was brought down so easily by Americans Indian army people shit their pants.

        World is a very complicated place.

          1. I might be wrong. Please write longer replies with some details for the benefit of others.

            I am certain his officers trained with India and he helped out on Kashmir etc.

  6. During the Cold War there was a big term “China Lobby” in the US, wasn’t there? Historically backing the ROC (Taiwan) over the PRC, and much spearheaded by anticommunists, both Americans, of Chinese descent or otherwise. But that fell by the wayside (and I think the term too) in influence of course due to realpolitik with China, like you mention.

    I think you’re getting at something real major with the importance of the nation but I’d add the relative clout of the homeland vs. clout of the diaspora — some of that is wealth but also population size — quantity has a quality all its own.

    Great point on the examples of diaspora politics and diaspora lobbying being either small nations (Cuba, Ireland) or nations with the diaspora is sizeable relative to the homeland (even with the Jewish diaspora, it’s neck-and-neck population size-wise with Israel at several million each). While China and India with over a billion each in population means no matter how big the diaspora is or is growing (millions), the homeland will still speak for itself more loudly.

    Here’s a prediction — will diaspora influence become weaker and weaker relative to their homelands as their homelands rise in importance economically, geopolitically etc.? Chinese Americans have less of a voice for what being “Chinese” is because China rises and Indian and other brown Americans also, for what it means to be “brown” since India and the rest of South Asia rises (hence Sepia Mutiny before and rise of the Indian internet).

    You see that with stuff like controversies over cultural appropriation by the diaspora and the response being “if the homeland/sourceland is OK with it, who cares what the diaspora thinks”. You see it with movies like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” whose appeal is perhaps meant to be to Americans of African or Asian descent but watched by actual Africans and Asians who think that its the homeland who defines authenticity and that these movies are diaspora fantasies.

    It seems like there are some diasporas (Jewish diaspora, African diaspora) where their heavy influence on western culture means that they who reside in the western hemisphere will remain the “face” of that racial/cultural group internationally for a long time. But even Jewish American identity is starting to have rifts with ceding the archetype of Jewishness to Israeli Jews in the homeland and even African Americans have their rifts with pan-Africanism (e.g. the ADOS movement) though pan-Africanism remains strong in the 21st century (e.g the year of return, revival diaspora interest in the homeland with mass media like Black is King etc.) alongside the 20th (e.g. Bob Marley or Stevie Wonder’s strong anti-apartheid and anti-colonial stances, Marcus Garvey, and Black American’s “Third World” solidarity lobbying).

    As the East rises, it is a bittersweet pill to swallow for the diaspora in the West to realize that their homeland growing stronger means they have to relinquish some power themselves to speak for or on behalf of their roots. Weirdly, ironically many diasporas seemed culturally stronger (proportionally maybe not absolutely) when in a world where the homelands were weak, distantly tied to them (plane tickets were expensive or non-existent) and the connection was heartfelt but abstract. For instance, the Jewish diaspora were most strongly Zionist and romanticized Israel much more before Israel became a real, strong nation state that could stand on its own. Marcus Garvey’s pan-African sentiment was strong when Africa was colonized and he himself never visited it, but when the diaspora were hugely vocal about “liberating” it. Asian Americans’ identity and even pan-Asianism in the homelands (e.g. Tagore’s call for unity in Asia) seemed to flourish more when actual Asian nation-states were weak (when it’s strong, it’s back to inter-nation jockeying). Diaspora politics willingly to support their homelands with all their might ironically sows the seeds (heh, diaspora means scattering seeds after all) of its own demise — when the nation’s strong, the diaspora’s no longer wanted or needed?

    Whither the diaporas now in a world of geopolitically strong nation states (resurgent nationalism)!

  7. All this makes me wonder what happens when there is a genuine US President/VP candidate who has opposing views of their “home” country and US has good relations with them. Like what would Bernie presidency would have looked like wrt Israel.

    It is water off ducks back if some one like Harris criticizes India, since she is “mixed” enough for Indians to suggest that she is not really “Indian”, what happens if the next candidate is a pure blood with the same woke views.


    “Human rights come before her Indian origin, says Kamala Harris’ uncle Dr Balachandran”

    1. Criticism is not synonymous with antagonism or enmity. Friends of India in Washington may well criticize us on our Kashmir policy on humanitarian or utilitarian grounds (there’s a case to be made that Kashmir is a millstone around our neck and resolving it, even with territorial concessions, may leave us stronger and more powerful).

      If you are looking for unconditional support from Washington, or want Congressmen to share our prejudices, that’s not going to happen ever. Israel is the only country that will get such support, because the Holocaust and guilt about it is deeply built into the American psyche.

      1. Well i was sharing a observation, i couldn’t care less about who criticizes or praises India. Its not like India ever changed any polices wrt to criticism from senators, irrespective of their ethnic background. In the 90s, India was arguable conducting far worse atrocities in Kashmir, from a weaker position. I doubt India would change policies 2day. Much of all this recent Kashmir hullabaloo is about performance and theatrics by desi senators to which Indian foreign establishment is also contributing in their dumb way. On ground nothing substantially changes , for better or for worse.

        On territorial concession i am far more radical than u are. In my view, all Hindu ethnicities need to fight their own battle, and for far too long gangetic Hindus have been carrying water for other weaker Hindu ethnicities. If someone can’t fight their own battles then its better to just cede those areas (with those people) so as to set an example for other de-racinated Hindu ethnicites.

        1. In the 1990s, there wasn’t a Hindutva Regime in Delhi. Also, the fig leaf of Article 370 was still there.

          Abrogating 370 and taking away statehood makes a huge difference to how things look to the rest of the world.

      2. Even Israel doesn’t get unconditional support anymore. Democratic Presidental candidates have refused to speak at AIPAC. Bernie sharply criticized Netanyahu (of course he’s Jewish so no one can call him an “anti-semite”).

        What has changed things is Israel’s own policies. The 2014 Gaza War really changed the narrative. As did the failure to even pretend to consider a Palestinian state.

        Similarly, India’s flagarent annexation of Kashmir last August and the subsequent lockdown have changed the narrative in the rest of the world.

        1. We’ve heard your rants about “annexation” over and over and over again. Please stop. It’s nauseating.

      3. The notion of “territorial concession” is a form of civilizational suicide that’s hard to overstate. No one on the Indian side should tolerate such mind numbing stupidity, let alone think it. One partition is one too many. Not an inch of land, not a speck of dust — that’s should be starting point.

    2. My comment must have gotten lost — I meant to reply to Saurav about this:

      “All this makes me wonder what happens when there is a genuine US President/VP candidate who has opposing views of their “home” country and US has good relations with them.”

      What about Trump and Merkel’s Germany? You don’t have to “wonder”.

      Most US presidents had English descent. How did that shape relations with the UK? Thomas Paine, while promoting US independence from England, regarding the Revolution said “But, admitting that we were all of English descent, what does it amount to?”

      In fact, Mitt Romney got some flak in the 2012 campaign against Obama for suggesting he “understands” the UK and will restore better UK-US relations, while alluding to shared Anglo-Saxon heritage. Those who gave him flak interpreted that as him speaking about ancestry.

      Look, I don’t doubt diaspora politics exists (and yes, for those who care about it, it’s a big deal) and I find it interesting. But let’s not buy into the wholesale uncritical “divided loyalties” argument, especially when selectively deployed against some but not all (and no, it’s not only about first gen. vs. second gen. immigrants for e.g. why Bernie Sanders and Israel gets brought up in this way, but not Trump and Germany when Trump is generationally by ancestry closer to Germany, being only a second/third gen immigrant, than much of the American Jewish diaspora to Israel).

  8. Well, there is an official “India Caucus” and a “Pakistan” Caucus in Congress. Don’t they count as lobbies? From what I know, the members (Reps and Senators) take opposite positions on issues where India and Pakistan are at loggerheads (any resolution pertaining to Kashmir, the bill in the 2000s carving out an exception for India to get nuclear material, etc.) Isn’t this exactly what lobbying groups do in Washington? But these groups are quite bipartisan.

  9. There is definitely a “China lobby”. When I was an intern in Congress in the U.S., in the early 1990s, we used to consider it in policy meetings in our member’s office.

  10. There is definitely a “China lobby”. When I was an intern in Congress in the U.S., in the early 1990s, we used to consider it in policy meetings in our member’s office.

    early 1990s is not today. this example is pretty irrelevant in light of my post (the figure)

  11. Why toss Cuba in with Israel? Do you really think there is some parallel? Post Cold war Cuban influence is local Florida politics for the most part. With a little swing state presidential impact. In the years in between you would have to say there is at least an order of magnitude difference compared to Israel.

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