Productive but Joyless? Narendra Modi and U.S.-India Relations

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Narendra Modi is well-placed to rebuild U.S.-India relations—but only if he and Washington can move beyond an old grudge.
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If the exit polls in India are to be believed, it is likely that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, Narendra Modi, will be India’s next prime minister. Modi, a chief minister who continues to be excoriated for the communal riots that occurred on his watch in the state of Gujarat in 2002, has been vaulted to the status of a national leader viably staking a claim to govern the world’s largest democracy. The fact that he has come this far in a relatively short period of time remains fundamentally an indictment of the poor performance of the incumbent Congress Party–led government, especially during its second term in office.

To be sure, there are still uncertainties about whether Modi will win big or whether he will be compelled to expand his current National Democratic Alliance to attain a majority in the 16th Lok Sabha. And whether Modi will be able to satisfy the Indian electorate’s extraordinarily high expectations remains to be seen. After all, the Indian people not only expect that he will return the country to its previous path of high economic growth but also anticipate that he will remedy the enormous challenges of unemployment, rehabilitate India’s fraying institutions of state, correct the maladies of misgovernance, and even provide new direction to India’s flailing foreign relations. In the best of times, this would be a tall order. Today, these ambitions are almost certainly beyond reach—at least more than can be achieved in a single term at the helm.

Modi’s ascension to the office of prime minister is also being watched closely by India’s friends and partners who have often been chagrined by New Delhi’s recent failure to play the confident role that they had imagined would accompany India’s emergence on the global stage. Nowhere have these expectations been dashed more grievously than in the United States, where successive administrations since 1998 have attempted to rejuvenate bilateral ties in the hope that India would become an effective strategic partner. Many Americans and Indians alike have concluded that the partnership has flagged considerably—though obviously not entirely—in recent times because of the political miasma in New Delhi.

Whatever else may be believed about Modi, there is universal agreement that he is a decisive leader. The possibility that such an individual may now take over the reins of government in India, then, raises new hope that the U.S.-Indian relationship may yet find its groove and realize the potential that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee saw when he described the two countries as “natural allies,” courageously pushing aside the accumulated shibboleths of some fifty years.

In many ways, Modi, with his natural assertiveness, may be even better positioned than Vajpayee to rebuild the bilateral relationship. Particularly if he secures the overwhelming mandate he has sought in the recently concluded polls, Modi is well-placed to harness the remarkable commitment the United States has made to aid the rise of Indian power since former president George W. Bush’s term in office. It would be wise for officials in Washington, therefore, to engage Modi concertedly in the aftermath of the Indian elections for several reasons, including making up for keeping him at arm’s length until very recently.

Old Grudges Die Hard

Obviously, engagement will not come easily because of the uncomfortable fact that Washington and Modi managed to start out on the wrong foot. The complications attending Modi’s personal history are likely to affect the future trajectory of U.S.-Indian relations in unhelpful ways.

In 2005, provoked by allegations about Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, the United States revoked his visa under an obscure law on religious freedom. This action bruised Modi personally. And it has produced the awkward situation in which for the first time India, a fellow democracy and strategic partner of the United States, could be governed by a prime minister who resents a country that otherwise serves as an inspiration for his middle-class political base at home and an important source of funding and policy ideas.

The fact that Modi has never been charged, let alone convicted, in an Indian court for his involvement in the Gujarat riots only makes his bitterness at the U.S. action more implacable. He believes that he has been unfairly penalized on allegations that have not held up in his own country’s judicial system.

Today, both Modi and the United States are trapped in a catch-22: in understandable pique, Modi has declared that he will never apply for an American visa again—and there is no way to revalidate his now-expired visa if he will not apply anew. This constraint would not prevent Modi from visiting the United States in an official capacity as India’s prime minister because he would be automatically eligible for an A-class visa as a head of government. Yet this technicality is unlikely to satisfy Modi because the U.S. State Department’s previous revocation of his personal visa, coupled with what has been a deliberate U.S. distance from him over the years, remains an ingrained slight that will be hard to mollify once he has achieved validation through victory—especially if the outcome of India’s national election is decisive.

The prospect for a dramatic resuscitation of U.S.-Indian relations under a Modi government in India, therefore, looks less than promising, despite the fact that Modi is exactly the kind of assertive personality who could improve New Delhi’s outreach to Washington at will. Unless he were to reinvent himself as a latter-day Vajpayee bent on transforming bilateral ties, this shift is unlikely to happen. Modi has undoubtedly made careful efforts throughout his election campaign to emphasize the continuing worth of Vajpayee’s legacy on several issues. And where the United States and India are concerned, he has declared plainly, even if not entirely persuasively, that “relations between the two countries cannot be determined or be even remotely influenced by incidents related to individuals.” On this count, given the depth of his personal animus, there is little reason to take him at face value. Where international engagement is concerned, Modi is mostly likely to remember those who welcomed him while he was in the political wilderness—and that means Japan, Israel, Singapore, and even, with qualifications, China.

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, at any rate, has sought to signal its willingness to let bygones be bygones, declaring through the congressional testimony of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal that it “look[s] forward to engagement with the new government [in India] that will take . . . [the bilateral relationship] to new heights.”

While this constitutes an important overture, it is unlikely to win Modi’s heart and mind. What would make the difference to him is either a public American expression of regret for the visa revocation or an open personal welcome to the United States. However, it is politically impossible for Washington to do the former, and it is unlikely that the latter will happen before Modi is clearly elevated to the position of prime minister.

National Interests, Strategic Consequences

While it is doubtful that a Prime Minister Modi would go out of his way to spite the United States, he would not set out to consciously ingratiate himself with the United States either. If bilateral relations do receive a direct boost, it will be because he views undertaking certain actions as necessary for advancing India’s own interests. And because Narendra Modi is, above all else, a committed nationalist who cares deeply about Indian interests, it is not unreasonable to expect that he will do some things for India that would bring clear benefits to the United States. The improvements he promises, this time for India’s own sake, in the structural factors that have impeded a transformation in bilateral ties offer the greatest reason for hope.

In this context, Washington should remember that a strong India is in America’s strategic interest on its own merits. Especially in the face of an increasingly assertive China, the United States benefits from the presence of a robust democratic power that is willing to and capable of independently balancing Beijing’s rising influence in Asia.

Despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s deep commitment to transforming U.S.-Indian relations, the effort to do so lost momentum during his second term in office. A perverse turn in India’s economic policies (and fortunes) and a slowing in defense and strategic cooperation, which until then had been a key driver propelling the strategic partnership upward, largely accounted for the stagnation.

There is every likelihood that a Modi government would alter Indian policies for the better in both those areas—with U.S.-Indian relations thereby profiting at least as an externality, if not a directly intended consequence. Building up India’s defense capabilities rapidly and purposefully is a case in point. Modi already understands that India’s defense procurement and the higher-level management of its defense policy have both suffered grave reverses during A. K. Antony’s tenure as defense minister, which began in 2006. If Modi becomes prime minister, he will quickly become entirely convinced that it is not India’s nuclear doctrine that requires speedy change—he has intimated that already—but rather its conventional military capabilities. The modernization of those forces has fallen dangerously behind schedule. India’s defense procurement processes are badly clogged, and the failure to create a well-educated cadre of military leaders as well as better civil-military relations has cost the country dearly.

If the next government resolutely moves to correct these faults, U.S.-Indian relations will immediately benefit. For example, any Indian decisions to acquire additional U.S. military equipment (especially by closing those contracts that are close to fruition) will quickly improve the combat capabilities of the Indian armed forces while simultaneously strengthening the U.S. position as a desirable supplier of advanced technology. Both these outcomes are self-evidently in Washington’s interest.

Similar benefits will be reaped if a proposed defense trade and technology initiative comes to fruition. This initiative is an effort to strengthen bilateral ties among both private defense firms in the United States and India and the two countries’ militaries. If it is consummated, India’s defense research organizations and its emerging private defense companies will be linked more closely to the best American developers of cutting-edge systems, making the prospects brighter for future defense cooperation.

If a Modi regime can make quick decisions to enlarge the opportunities for more Indian officers to enroll in American professional military education, permit Indian officers to be cross-posted in the U.S. combatant commands, sign the so-called “foundational agreements” on interoperability and safeguards that the Vajpayee government agreed to in principle, and create new avenues for greater American investment in India’s defense industry, it will produce important gains for India while directly benefiting American strategic interests.

The United States would also profit from India’s continued economic reform and its return to high growth.

Modi knows better than any Indian politician that his success will be judged by the extent to which he can rehabilitate India’s economic fortunes. If he is elevated to high office in this election, it will be mainly because Indian voters, disenchanted by the country’s recent economic slowdown, have put their trust in him individually rather than in his party, hoping that he will be their ticket to collective success.

Not surprisingly, then, Modi has assiduously campaigned (at least at the national level) on the universally acknowledged necessities of returning to high growth, providing good governance, increasing employment, and empowering India’s states. Granted, toward the end of what has been a vicious electoral campaign by previous standards, Modi succumbed to the temptation of employing nativist tropes in eastern and northeast India and criticizing the Election Commission, which directs and controls the entire election process—actions that have intensified concerns among those constituencies that fear what they perceive to be Modi’s parochialism and dictatorial tendencies. And his relentless invocation of “no red tape, only red carpet” for investors has often given rise to the expectation that his economic policies will favor primarily big corporate houses, both Indian and foreign.

But after the election season, if his record in Gujarat after 2002 is anything to go by, Modi will likely return to the core themes of his national campaign: enlarging opportunities to accelerate national investment levels, revitalizing agriculture, improving infrastructure, removing regulatory constrictions, and pushing financial devolution in order to fulfill his electoral promises.

Modi clearly recognizes the benefits of institutionalizing wider and more efficient markets in India, but he also recognizes the limits to which he can go in light of the country’s statist inheritance. These boundaries will become all the more pronounced because Modi is a genuine outsider to the political class in New Delhi in a way that no previous chief minister who took the prime minister’s office has been. And he is, equally, an outsider in his own BJP, whose old guard he determinedly defanged in the prelude to the current elections.

Modi, therefore, will create space for greater private initiative in combating India’s economic problems. He will seek to improve the nation’s investment climate through more predictable, transparent, and inviting economic policies. But these virtues will be intended to appeal to a wide range of domestic actors and will not automatically translate into a free ride for either “India Inc.” or corporate America.

Yet, to the degree that India’s economic performance gathers steam as a result of Modi’s policies and his efforts to empower the Indian states create new competitive laboratories of economic reform, U.S. national interests are well-served. Any effort to enlarge India’s markets or make them more efficient through internal reforms will stimulate domestic growth and create expanded opportunities for bilateral trade and investment. If India’s economic strength and political confidence grow as a result, U.S. strategic aims in Asia and globally will be advanced.

The same will be true if Modi spends much of his foreign policy capital to rejuvenate India’s “Look East” strategy, a policy begun in 1991 that promised closer economic and strategic engagement with countries in East and Southeast Asia. A deeper Indian relationship with Japan, Singapore, and the other trading states of East Asia will bind New Delhi closer to countries that are otherwise American allies and partners. These states will profit from any renewed Indian engagement in their region, in the process advancing U.S. interests even if doing so was not India’s primary intention. Even an effort by Modi to improve Sino-Indian ties would not necessarily undermine American aims in Asia. Modi is astute enough to recognize the nature of the threats posed by rising Chinese power to Indian security, so it is unlikely that improved relations between Beijing and New Delhi would ever come to constitute strategic “bandwagoning” against Washington.

Even though Modi’s personal feelings toward Washington are not particularly warm today, he is not likely to go out of his way to spite the United States out of personal pique. In his official dealings with his American counterparts, Modi will be exceptionally mindful of what Indian national interests demand—and will do nothing less than what is mandated by those requirements. If both sides can avoid stepping on each other’s toes, especially in South Asia—an arena in which Modi will be fiercely protective of India’s prerogatives—the United States could find itself in a potentially productive bilateral relationship with India. This outcome will ensue as long as Modi’s government pursues domestic and foreign policies that end up creating new opportunities for the United States, even if the U.S.-India affiliation is at the same time stripped of the strong emotional commitments associated with the overtures pursued by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. The absence of driving personalities in the Obama administration who are committed to deepening the relationship with India makes such an outcome all the more likely.

In other words, even if Washington’s expected postelection overtures to Modi leave him unmoved, his government in New Delhi will be one that at its best yields benefits for the bilateral relationship while still remaining quite detached and distant from the United States. If his time in Gujarat is any indication, Modi clearly knows, and often speaks, his mind. His government will possess a defined center of power, Modi himself. And it will be able to implement difficult decisions with purposefulness, even ruthlessness.

The Dangers of Cynicism

If the immediate future of U.S.-Indian relations is thus likely to be more businesslike than warm, are there dangers lurking that could send this relationship into a tailspin? On this issue, there are arguably reasons for hope.

Historically, an important element that has ensured the stability of bilateral relations has been India’s enduring commitment to liberal, democratic politics at home. This commitment, which has been manifested through both constitutional government and the protection of India’s myriad social diversities, has often been questioned. But the vision of religious tolerance, the protection of minorities, and the necessity for some forms of affirmative action have all durably survived.

Modi’s ascension to center stage in Indian politics, because so many observers continue to associate him with the Gujarat riots, has revived fears in India and in the United States that India’s minorities may once again face elevated dangers. Were the events in Gujarat in 2002 to be repeated somewhere in India, the risks to U.S.-Indian relations would indeed be great and India’s international reputation would be severely besmirched.

The broad contours of Modi’s current electoral campaign suggest that he is mindful of such pitfalls. Although he had plentiful opportunities to campaign on a virulent Hindutva, or Hindu nationalist, platform, he generally eschewed that temptation and instead focused resolutely on issues of growth, development, and governance. Of course, his critics are wont to suggest that this strategy is aimed merely at securing the nation’s highest office from whence he would launch a renewed campaign against India’s minorities all the more dangerously.

At present, there is no way to discern the truth conclusively. On this, as on many other matters, including the details of Modi’s economic and social policies, only time will tell.

Modi may well continue to harbor rigid Hindu nationalist beliefs that are anathema to many of his own countrymen. That is a privilege offered to him by India’s democratic order. But it does not matter.

What is solely relevant is his behavior in power. And on this count, there is reason to believe that Modi is unlikely to provoke any divisiveness that undermines his larger economic and political ambitions. His own evolution as a politician, the structural constraints imposed by India’s democratic system, and his recognition of India’s complexities from the vantage point of the prime ministership all suggest that he will avoid any single-minded pursuit of sectarian policies.

More to the point, it is reassuring that Modi has reiterated both in public and in private that “the only holy book of the government is the Indian Constitution.” If he acts according to its writ while in office, the worst fears of his detractors will not come to pass. If he does not, he will be booted out of power—and will, in fact, be stymied in the implementation of his agenda long before that happens. If he is elected with the mandate he seeks, it will be because the people of India want him to repair a faltering economy and a rudderless government, not to impose a parochial agenda that most of them do not share. If Modi misreads that verdict to mean something else, he will not be doing himself and his cause any favors.

From an American perspective, therefore, U.S. administration officials and members of Congress should not rush to premature conclusions about Modi’s presumed future domestic policies. That is especially true in an environment in which his detractors have already launched furtive and not-so-furtive campaigns in the United States aimed at persuading official Washington to view Modi as a threat to India and to American interests.

Similar caution is justified in the case of contingencies involving Pakistan. For several decades now, India has been at the receiving end of terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil—some of it state sanctioned if not actually state directed. The traditional Indian response to such attacks consisted of forbearance, given that successive Indian prime ministers from P. V. Narasimha Rao onward concluded that any retaliatory responses could produce military escalation that would make the cure worse than the disease. With a contentious personality like Modi at the helm of affairs, many Pakistan-based jihadi groups would be greatly tempted to engage in terrorist attacks in India in hopes of inciting a violent response by New Delhi that fuels a larger cataclysm in the subcontinent.

How a Modi government would react to such provocations is unknown. It is likely that not even Modi himself knows today and that he would not be sure until actually faced with that moment of truth in office. To be sure, India has many more retaliatory options short of all-out war than it did during a 2001–2002 military standoff with Pakistan and the 2008 terrorist attacks in Bombay. But international observers should not suppose that a Modi government will be automatically inclined toward more kinetic responses to Pakistan in the event of a terrorist attack emerging from that country. In such circumstances, and despite his desire to squarely confront terrorism, Modi, just like his predecessors, will have to make tough decisions about whether to risk subverting his focus on restoring economic growth for renewed regional conflict.

In fact, the larger danger in a possible Modi policy toward Pakistan is that he will choose to ignore Islamabad, either because of his concentration on economic renewal at home or because he views Pakistan, with its myriad problems, as marginal to India’s destiny. That decision would create incentives for the “deep state” in Pakistan to rely even more heavily on jihadi groups. It would also cost India the opportunity to accelerate regional economic integration, which would increase Indian prosperity and provide Islamabad with incentives for constructive engagement with New Delhi, thereby enhancing India’s safety.

Precisely because such eventualities represent the most serious threat to U.S. interests in South Asia today, the Obama administration ought to reach out publicly and generously to Modi as soon as it becomes clear that the Indian nation has chosen him as its next prime minister. A congratulatory call from Obama to Modi followed by a visit to India by a U.S. cabinet member or higher-ranking official would go a long way. These overtures will not make up for the lost opportunity to engage Modi while he climbed the national stage or efface his accumulated grievances against Washington overnight. But they would be the necessary first step toward developing a relationship with a leader who will govern India for the next five years.

High Stakes, High Gains

Whatever his present misgivings, Modi will realize upon taking office that a fruitful relationship with the United States serves India’s interests and vice versa. At a time when India remains continually challenged by Pakistan’s growing weakness, China’s rising strength, the pervasive fragility of many smaller states along its periphery (including Afghanistan), and mounting threats to several global regimes of importance to New Delhi, U.S.-Indian cooperation is not optional but necessary. The benefits of friendly relations with the United States, still the world’s only superpower, should make this conclusion inescapable to India.

Sustaining such collaboration will require considerable dexterity on both sides. In New Delhi, it will require a willingness to engage with the United States on multiple fronts, including by proposing a robust agenda for diplomatic, strategic, and economic cooperation in the next U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. In Washington, it will demand extraordinary personal outreach to a miffed Modi, given both his past encounter with U.S. policy and the larger American stakes in India’s success, not to mention the importance of promoting peace and prosperity within Southern Asia writ large. Thinking about India in strategic terms will be essential for the success of this endeavor.

Only a successful reciprocity of this sort can slowly improve what could otherwise become a productive yet joyless bilateral relationship that comes to represent a lost opportunity for both countries.

End of document

About the South Asia Program

The Carnegie South Asia Program informs policy debates relating to the region’s security, economy, and political development. From the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan’s internal dynamics to U.S. engagement with India, the Program’s renowned team of experts offer in-depth analysis derived from their unique access to the people and places defining South Asia’s most critical challenges.


Comments (36)

  • Donald Camp
    2 Recommends
    I hope you're wrong about the depth of his animus, Ashley.   
    Two other points:
    1. Though it was the Bush administration that voiced the willingness to support the rise of Indian power, the Clinton administration took the same approach without voicing it in the same way.
    2. Vajpayee talked about "natural allies."   So did Modi, recently. That gives me hope.
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  • Anjaan
    15 Recommends
    The US denying visa to Modi the three time democratically elected CM of Gujarat, was not as much an insult on Modi, as it was on the people of India ... communal riots are not new, or uncommon occurrence in India, the most significant one in recent history was the one in 1984, under the Congress party rule, now also known as the Scamgress party. But the way Modi was singled out, villified and demonized for over a decade by the Muslim appeasing and corrupt political parties and the pseudosecular unethical English media, is unprecedented ... ! ... The US denying visa to Modi, is a clear indication that the foreign powers led by Britain and the US, are hand in glove with a section of the western educated Indian liberal elites in politics, media and bureaucracy, who are out of touch with the population of India ... the Americans simply played into the hands of these people, who falsely claim to represent the people of India, their thoughts, opinion, values and sentiments.

    Forget American visa to Modi, now in a few days, it will be known whether the mighty Americans would be made to eat humble pie, and stand in line for an appointment with Modi, which would be a huge victory for the people of India.

    As for the US-India relations, the people of India do not expect any significant shift in the direction or the substance, regardless of whether it is Modi, or some one else leading India. However Modi is likely to be more aggressive and decisive than his predecessors, when it comes to negotiating and clinching business opportunities between the two countries.   
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  • Macbeth John
    Mr Tellis: Reading your analysis gives me the impression that morality and statecraft have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Modi is a mass murderer and you know it well. He appeals to all that is base and degenerate in Hinduism. But people like you will rationalize everything - massacres and ethnic cleansing included - for the interests they serve professionally. You, of course, as not alone. But it is because of people like you that humankind is in such deep trouble. Be ashamed. Macbeth John
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    • Anjaan replies...
      11 Recommends
      It what you said has any substance, then then Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Bangladesh would not have closer relations with the US, than India ever would ... the people of India would like to know, what has been the position of the British and the Americans, on the issue of forced conversion, killing, persecution and systematic decimation of the Hindus in Pakistan over the years and decades ... and also why the western press is silent on the atrocities being committed on the Hindus in Bangladesh, their properties, places of worship burned down, in the recent months ... ??
    • Jai Garg replies...
      3 Recommends
      Macbeth John you are a fool to even think like this; only time will tell for Hindu's respect all religions and truth, others do not.   
    • Raj replies...
      5 Recommends
      Mr Macbeth- You should be ashamed of yourself by calling Modi a mass murderer. When you know well that he has never been even charged for the riots and has been cleared by the highest court in India. You are so narrow minded and prejudiced that you fail to acknowledge that India is the largest democracy and over 550 Million people including millions of Muslims and minorities have just voted for Mody as the next leader of the most populous and functioning democracy in the world.. US supports and supplies arms and aid to many countries run by dictators like Pakistan(Don't you forget that Bin Laden was living in full view of the Pakistani leaders and US did not have guts to punish the leadership there). Mody is unlikely to align himself with any one foreign country. We are proud to elect him and kick out the corrupt politicians of Congress party that did not have courage to stand to foreign powers.
    • DG replies...
      2 Recommends
      u talk against us and your president wants to be our business partner. ...we don,t need you. we will be happy to build good friendship with RUSSIA, JAPAN, CHINA, AFGHANISTAN....... ETC.
    • jay hindu replies...
      Macbeth John: after reading your expression that you have no evidence to support your false allegation against narendra modi. As far as people of India is concerned he was a savior for Hindus and Muslims together. pessimistic and non ambitious people continue to live in the past miseries and I feel sorry for such people.
  • Sudhir Jatar
    3 Recommends
    The article doesn't say much except that purchase of US defence equipment will strengthen India-US relations.
    Mr Tellis has not given answers to the US policy, as Wikileaks papers show, to support, fund and build-up anti-Modi persons without a shred of evidence against Modi?
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  • Maj Gen (Dr) G D Bakhi SM,VSM (retd)
    10 Recommends
    It is amazing how the US with all its resources of analytical power so completely missed the deep seated change and churn that was taking place in the Indian polity in the last decade or so. Industrialisation and urbanisation invariably lead to the rise of nationalism. in India - two decades of identity politics( designed to marginalise and sideline the Hindu majority by clever caste and minotity combinations)) have led to a strong reaction - leading to the sharp rise of Right wing Nationalism - premised upon the emergence of a strong, national security state based on firm and decisive leadership.Nationalism is on the rise in China, Japan and East and South East Asia. this contagion is now catching on in India and fast.It is amazing that the Americans missed it so completely.
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  • Ramesh
    3 Recommends
    How many other foreign leaders' visas has the UD Administration revoked in the past? The US must also focus on India's needs and interests and not just on US's strategic needs in South Asia. The goodwill built by the nuclear agreement has nearly evaporated. India needs technology help in sectors other than defence as it is pointless spending huge amounts of money to prepare for a conventional war that India will not be allowed to fight. Americans can do a lot to help India improve her economic health. For one thing, PM Modi will expect two-way traffic.
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  • SayanIndia
    1 Recommend
    The article correctly mentions Narendra Modi's decisive nature and robust approach.

    In addition to that Narendra Modi is an adventurous personality who will not hesitate to use India's rejuvenated (under his guidance) military might to secure and further India's legitimate interests.

    Expect India's close cooperation with two specific nations shortly; Israel and Japan.

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  • Chintu B
    Modi's ascension would herald a revolution in Indo-US ties and world affairs. Modi has already said in a recent tv interview that the visa issue is a non-issue. We can forget the history and get on with some good work.
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  • no
    Nice and Balance article how ever your center point is only US interest and i do agree but the way US treat him and for him he gain lots of humiliating attack in India any one self respected person hardly can forgot and he is a men with character not to forgot and forgive so do not waste time as such us is not natural friend of India and on and off putting sanction on India we never ever forgot that but we wish the policy toward US we make such a way that we are less dependent on US because you have only one tool that trade ban so we count all these in mind and develop far east policy good luck
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  • VKP
    Dear Sir,

    I am indian origin person from Gujarat. In my opinion your article is right to the point. I too believe that great US-India relationship is greatly beneficial to both countries. My only concern is will US act to take tis bilateral relationship to new highs or US will be a mute spectator as it has been seen in recent times around the globe
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    • Chintu B replies...
      4 Recommends
      The onus to take the relations forward, and remove hindrances should be on both sides. For example, the US administration is such that it requires lobbyists and PR agencies to make it work. AFAIK, India does not use the services of lobbyists due to some principled reasoning. The result is that India's rivals like Pakistan which use lobbyists is having a better relationship with US administration even when they are a monstrous liability for the US as a nation. If India avails of the services of lobbyists, it would immediately be in a far more advantageous position. Secondly, countries like Pakistan and UK absolutely do not want India to have a good relationship with US and will go to any lengths to scuttle Indo-US ties. For example, there is currently an attempt in the US congress to lobby support for continuing the visa ban on Modi. The congressmen who are lobbying for this are citing some recent articles in highly reputed Brit papers which were highly critical of Modi, even going to the extent of telling blatant lies to demonize Modi. This spate of anti-Modi articles conveniently appeared at exactly the same time that US congressmen started campaigning to continue the visa ban, and the congressmen immediately started citing those articles in support of their campaign. Isn't that too convenient ? Usually, most US congress members would have taken these eminently dishonest articles at face value and would have been puppeted into voting for continuing the visa ban. I see this as an attempt to scuttle Indo-US ties. Both US and India should identify and know such malicious interest groups if the relationship is to be meaningful and durable.
  • Ravi
    4 Recommends
    Ashley is living in la la land. All his prescriptions bring value only to US and none to India. Given the recent bickerings with US, why should India invest so much in US defence systems and be forced to knowtow to US policies ? The recent actions by US against India should caution India into not blindly rushing to US arms. India should use the defence procurements as a bargaining chip with US. If the US does not back down over the ITPR issues, India should prevent all US companies from bidding for Indian defence purchases. Nor is any close India-US military to military cooperation required. There is very little chance of India and US fighting any war together. And the way that US is propping up Pakistan to the detriment of India won't be forgotten. It is better if India-US relationship is limited to trade & business.
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  • Objection
    6 Recommends
    The article is well-written. Though I have one objection. In the article it is mentioned that any attack on minorities will hurt India's international reputation. I am not against minorities but I would like to ask one thing if US is so concerned about minorities that it banned Modi from entering US on account of Gujarat riots on which even the Supreme Court of India has not found him guilty, why does US aids Pakistan which has a continuous record of attacking minorities?
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  • Maj Gen (Dr) G D Bakshi(retd)
    4 Recommends 5 Conversation Recommends
    The US policy in the last decade has been too narrowly focused on Pakistan to the complete detriment of India and Indian interests. Despite India being the victim of Pakistan ISI sponsered terrorism non- stop since 1980- first in the Punjab       ( 21,000 killed)then J&K( 42,000 killed) and then all over India( 15-20,000 killed), the USA put tremendous pressure on India to not retaliate and talk peace. The UPA govt complied and has been now voted out.Modi cannot do more of the same on US prodding.The US has heavily armed Pakistan against India.Being an ally of the US is a punishment- and the UPA has had to pay a steep price! Hopefully with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan , the US obsession with Pakistan and condoning of Pak sponsored terrorist attacks against India will cease. We then have some scope for improvement in US- India ties. frankly these have touched rock bottom. The CIA- NGO led offensive to generate an Arab spring in India has little to show for its exertions. it has only made matters worse. hopefully things will begin to look up from here.Otherwise the US can chose the mighty state of Pakistan as its chief ally in Asia and wait for another 9/11.
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    • Ravi replies...
      1 Recommend
      Well said. Look at the double standards of US. Russia has no legitimate interest in Ukraine, but Pakistan has a legitimate interest in afghanistan and who comes to power there! The US armed a schizophrenic pakistan to the brim with free arms, and now it will also give away large part of arms and materials that US has in Afghanistan. It then claims that India and US are strategic partners. Do such strategic partners arms the enemies of their partners? US is pissed that India didn't vote with it on Ukraine issue, but it expects India to be silent when it arms Pakistan! There really is no "strategic partnership", it is just a misused word to massage Indian ego. Indian leaders are known to capitulate to high praise, and thats what the US is doing.
  • MBI Munshi
    It would appear that to become an expert on Indian affairs in a US think tank or policy centre one need only write reams of drivel that have no basis in reality. Having followed in detail the comments of Ashley j. Tellis for several years and come to the obvious conclusion that he has consistently been wrong about South Asian matters and especially on Indian foreign policy and is only equaled or surpassed in his erroneous judgments and views by the likes of Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman. Indeed it sometimes seems to me that Tellis may actually work for the Indian foreign policy establishment (South Block) and simply spouts their propaganda line. After more than a decade of engagement with India it should be clear to most Americans that Indian and US objectives are inherently contradictory. India seeks to be a regional hegemon having domination over the South Asia and Indian Ocean region at the exclusion of the US while even tolerating China which shares a similar outlook to New Delhi.

    The country seeks to become a regional hegemon at the cost of its neighbours and this has been the objective of Indian foreign policy for several decades whether under a Congress government or a BJP one. A government under Narendra Modi may however introduce certain policy changes that could affect relations with Bangladesh. Modi has already threatened to expel millions of Muslims alleged to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in an effort to purify India. The reality suggests, however, that the majority of illegal immigrants to India were Hindu who had fled to the neighbouring country from East Pakistan/Bangladesh in 1947 and 1971 and were granted automatic citizenship – a right that was never extended to Muslims from Bangladesh even though they only numbered in the few thousand. It is possible that after this venture the BJP will seek to instigate a witch hunt against the remaining Muslims on the pretext they are sympathetic and loyal to Pakistan or Bangladesh or are related to Islamist terrorism. In other words unlike the Congress which sought just hegemony and expansionism in South Asia and the Indian Ocean the BJP appears to want to also purify India of its Muslims and make the country a bastion and sanctuary for Hindus. Please read more on these issues in my book The India Doctrine (1947-2007)
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    • jai Garg replies...
      1 Recommend
      Sir MBI Munshi,

      It is shocking when you think every other country is involved in propaganda; except the US which is the only country that knows or understands reality...and has a right to pass resolutions on any country it wants ...amounting to interference in others a basic right.....which no one can assume as their right ?

      If one starts to talk about what the US did to its red Indians population by placing them in settlements or about the blacks and Mexican workers they treat as illegal slaves or how theySir MBI Munshi,

      It is shocking when you think every other country is involved in propaganda; except the US which is the only country that knows or understands reality...and has a right to pass resolutions on any country it wants ...amounting to interference in others a basic right.....which no one can assume as their right ?

      If one starts to talk about what the US did to its Red Indians population by placing them in settlements ,or about the blacks and Mexican workers they treat as illegal slaves or how they have managed to legalize corruption what would you say?
      “Meddling in internal affairs of the US….?”
      Please be serious…….with due respects.

  • Jitendra Desai
    4 Recommends
    You have so much of advice for Modi and his new NDA if it comes to power! How about some advice to Washington too.Eg they won't repeat some thing like Devyani Khobragade episode.Or issues related to Modi's visa.What if tomorrow Amit shah applies for US visa?
    You are right about Modi being a staunch nationalist.he has declared onmore than one occasion that he won't allow his visa issue to colour his approach to Indo -US relations.But he could be busy with so many internal issues to be fixed quickly to produce electoral results.Imroved US relations won't fethc him votes! Besides US has competition! Japan,China,Russia, Australia, Latin America ... all could be wooing India through a decisive business minded Modi.
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    • MBI Munshi replies...
      Why do you assume that I am writing in favour of the United States or believe that they are above reproach?
  • Sri
    1 Recommend
    Perhaps it is high time that concerned US Lawmakers figure out a new law to change the status-quo and -or, revise it appropriately taking into consideration exceptions wherein the person to whom a Visa is denied - i.e.. when the person has been cleared in the legal system in the country, the law must be considered invalid and grounds for reversal and repeal of the same. Repealing laws is not new in the US ; It has been tried by many to repeal the "Obamacare" medical programs in many states. It is worth considering if the US intends to seriously mend fences and develop a better relationship with India- for mutual benefit.
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  • Dr. Dre
    1 Recommend
    Modi doesn't care about your goddamn visa. If they really want to get closer. First reveal names of people and financiers behind anti-modi anti-hindu movements in the states so their puppets here in India can be charged for sedition. And then fire the corrupt and biased officials who acted against Modi unjustly on grounds of misconduct.
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    • SRI replies...
      Dr.Dre makes some vital observations. In addition to these, it must be noted by the media-at-large throughout the western world, that the Congress Party in India, for the last almost six decades, has brutally and cleverly controlled all news and over 95% of news organizations are owned and or-controlled by special interest groups associated directly with the Congress party. Unlike the USA, News Media organizations in India -do not have any such requirements to directly and individually verify and report any "NEWS" they print. Hence as Narendra Modi Ji eloquently stated during the campaign... most "News" reports coming out of India - are "News-Trading" or the concerned reporters and journalists are "News-Traders" like stock-broking Day-traders known very well in financial circles worldwide. The impact across the western world has THUS BEEN overwhelming biased and continues to the reason for misinformed and misguided and vitriolic , inflammatory statements. Media organizations have a duty to provide balanced and fair reporting -which is going to be crucial for both countries USA & INDIA.
  • Chintu B
    1 Recommend
    Although I had profound hopes, it seems the US administration wants to engage Modi by giving him the AI visa given to heads of states, but without restoring his personal visa. That looks like a poor move to me.
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  • Dr. Kumar-Erode-India
    well written. But needs deep exploration.
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  • Jai Garg
    It is a matter of trusting Prime minister Modi on morals and ethics, that remain ingrained in him; which would matter.

    One never insults a friend and it is always good to know your foe better.
    Forgiveness is the key and the US should understand this totally.
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  • Anjaan
    4 Recommends
    By electing Modi the PM, the people of India have spoken ... it is a huge victory for the people of India ...
    The US State Dept. is now coming up with clarifications that Modi, by virtue of being the PM of India, is automatically eligible for diplomatic visa, and therefore there is no hurdle for him to visit the US. But that is not the point. The point is, Modi still remains black listed by the US State Dept. which is yet to be revoked by a White House executive order. This effectively means that Modi is welcome to visit the US, as long as he continues to be the PM of India, and the situation goes back to the square one, as soon as he ceases to be the PM. This position of the US State Dept. is utterly unethical, opportunistic and untenable, to say the least, and would be totally unacceptable to the people of any country, big or small.
    It is therefore time for the Americans for some serious introspection ...
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  • RSingh
    The US couldn't care less what Modi did or did not do. Their priority is trade. It deals with mass murderers all the time. Modi is a Hindu fanatic. Even if Modi is innocent of the pogrom against Muslims in 2002, he was derelict in his duty to prevent it. His comments about Muslims since then have been very calculating and troubling. In my book, as a Sikh, he is a thug just as the Congress Party was against the Sikhs in 1984. Period. He was also associated with a secretive police mafia in the state. Indians at all levels love to talk about democracy but justify massacres by wanting to move on. This is outrageous and inexcusable. For all the talk of a shining example of Gujarat, Punjab regained the status of #1 in GDP and Gujarat fell to #2 in 2013. In the quality of life category, Gujarat is ranked #9 thanks to massive poverty in the rural areas. People's expectations are huge and unrealistic., e.g. India needs to create 1 million jobs per month. This is not possible. India's problems are insurmountable starting with its huge population. India is basically a poor country with little money, little innovation, a very small manufacturing sector, limited resources such as oil and gas, massive shortages of power (very water intensive) and water, lack of organisation and descipline, corruption at all levels and a massive urge to be takers and not givers. Modi is not the messiah that can save India. In fact, not even God can save India. People need to take a deep breath and face reality.
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    • Jai Garg replies...
      Very sad Mr RSingh,

      If you remember what happened to Hindus and Sikhs around 1947 when the train chugged into Delhi you would not talk like this.
      Just hope that the Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and others respect people like Modi when it comes to taking a moral stand against terrorists to protect all peace loving people of India and the world.

      Corruptions come from loss of morals and ethics and can only be eradicated when each person in India pledges to abide by truth, respect the law and abide by the Indian constitution.
      We need a strong person like Modi to inculcate some confidence and respect in every one so we can proudly say we are Indians who respect peace and all religions of the world.      

      Yes God can save India if we face reality with a strong conviction for our honest leaders.
  • Samir
    1 Recommend
    Well we now know the results. His own party won an outright majority and he does not need even his pre election allies to govern. Right now what people do not seem to understand is that Modi can change the constitution at his will. The India constitution requires 400 MPs in a joint parliament sitting to pass any law and Modi must be well aware of it!!

    Fact is that Modi now knows that Pakistan and China are both threats as well as opportunities. As demonstrated in the past month he is more likely to engage a lot of with Pakistan, Japan and China. With the US he will probably want its private industry while keeping its Government at arms length. The single biggest threat to Hindu nationalism is probably an Evangelical administration taking power in the US.

    The long and short of it is that Modi will ignore the pundits and he will do what is best for him, his country and religion.
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    • Jai Garg replies...
      "The single biggest threat to Hindu nationalism is probably an Evangelical administration taking power in the US."
      I would say threat to US existence itself, not to India or Modi and mind you India and its people, as a country are important to Modi not just relegion.

India Decides 2014

In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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