When the pot met the kettle: How Modi made India a lackey to the US

Published: July 4, 2017

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs President Trump as they give joint statements in the Rose Garden of the White House. PHOTO: REUTERS

Finally, the pot and the kettle met, shook hands and hugged each other. Analysts world over are still debating possible gains and losses of a meeting between two unique characters of world politics today – Donald Trump and Narendra Modi.

They represent two very vibrant democracies of the world but they are not recognised as the real faces of their multi-cultural nations. They are treated more as aberrations of history, a mistake of time rather than a true face of the era and people they got their mandate from.

They both defy the norms of Greek and Shakespearean tragedy. Their past sins and acts are not holding them back from achieving success; they are challenging goodness at every stage and are still getting away with it. They survive by selling their villainy. Poetic justice does not visit them.

Therefore, the individuals who are defined more by their negativity – the pot and the kettle – would receive more than the usual attention. They received this attention recently in Washington when Modi met his own image. Majority of the analysts in India kept the focus on the outcome of the talks and what headway the two democracies could make on the bilateral front.

India sees a major gain in the US’s decision to declare the Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen chief, Syed Salahuddin, as a “global terrorist”. One needs to ask how such a declaration alters the ground realities in South Asia, how will it improve the relationship between New Delhi and Islamabad, and how will it solve the Kashmir issue? Domestic analysts in India don’t want to debate over how Washington is indirectly interfering in the bilateral relationship between the two South Asian neighbours.

The hard truth of the meeting was the decision to go in for a comprehensive review of trade relations between the two countries. Currently, the balance of trade is in India’s favour and the review will, in fact, put great pressure on India to open its market for American goods, which will not be easy. The businessman president of the US believes more in transactional relations than emotional bonding.

New Delhi is already a strategic partner of the US in South Asia and Modi is willing to play Washington’s game in the region. The overwhelming argument in India is that Modi’s embrace of the US, at the cost of its foreign policy autonomy, is the best thing to happen to India in the last 70 years. This narrative dominates popular discourse so much that there is hardly any space for questioning such an abject surrender of our strategic autonomy.

Our previous Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh signed a nuclear deal with the US and exalted India’s position as a strategic partner of Washington without surrendering the strategic autonomy despite continuous pressure from the US.

Modi, who won a historic mandate, made India a lackey to the US foreign policy.

The repercussion is for all to see. China, an inalienable neighbour, sees the entente between the two largest democracies as an attempt to contain its growing ambition. Pakistan, despite its inhibitions, has openly aligned with Beijing and become an important part of the One Belt and One Road (OBOR) policy. Bhutan, which has survived so far under India’s sphere of influence, wants to have its own say in dealing with foreign countries. India’s relationship with Islamabad is at an all-time low and the strategic bonding between New Delhi and Washington has made South Asia more fragile than before.

At a time when the US’s allies, like Germany and France, are talking about charting their own course in history, New Delhi’s bond with the US is anachronistic. It is investing in a leader which the developed West wants to keep at an arm’s length.

Compare the body language of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron towards Trump with Modi’s. You will realise how narrow the mental canvas of the Indian leader is. German and French leaders rejected Trump’s hatred towards Muslims; they refused to endorse the American president’s political insularity.

Modi can’t do that because he is the mirror image of Trump in many ways. They both share a common hatred towards minorities, they abhor questioning and democratic dissent, and they are votaries of narrow nationalism. Moreover, they represent the political ethos of exclusion and nurture a deep hatred towards the media.

At a time when the world is passing through an extremely difficult phase of history, the leaders of the two biggest democracies are highly divisive figures. They can’t talk of leading the world out of the present chaos; they, ironically, represent chaos. The world cannot look towards them for leadership at all.

Immediately after independence, India became the voice of developing countries when the world was passing through a new wave of uncertainties. This happened because of the leadership of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Today, India’s leadership is under a man who stands for divisiveness and Hindu extremism and it cannot be a voice at the international fora. The same applies to Trump.

The irony is that the US-India comraderies cannot stabilise the world, it cannot play a positive role in calming down the domestic and international chaos. It cannot act as a moral force in bringing sanity in South Asia.


Sanjay Kumar

A New Delhi based broadcast journalist who reports on national and international affairs. He is a contributor to the Asia Pacific based magazine, The Diplomat. He tweets as @destinydefier (twitter.com/destinydefier)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • wb

    Hate turns a person insane. And an insane person does not know when he’s ranting and when he’s being eloquent. Some are always ranting.Recommend

  • Manoj Mishra

    The author seems to be a congressi and thus shedding crocodile tears …..I individually oppose may of the domestic policies and actions of BJP govt , but as far as International policies are concerned , Modi has taken India to a different level and therefore the article is written in a bad taste by a biased authorRecommend

  • Patwari

    A Brahmini to boot ?? Hmmm…suspicious…
    Rest assured whenever a hindu discusses his own
    place in the caste totem pole, he takes it up 7 notches.
    Doing reverse pedaling,.. that would Banarsi an Untouchable.
    Gosh darn!! Deepest sympathies ! Had no idea ! . So sorry. So sorry.
    See, you can claim to be a Dalit, they are slightly up….no?

  • Sane

    Because kettle was not washedRecommend

  • wb

    My dearest, you’re consumed by so much irrationality and hate, you just rant. Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    You reek of caste system n racism. Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Says a man who believes 9/11 is a Jewish conspiracy, ISIS are Hindus in disguise and what not.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Are you jealous? Recommend

  • wb

    You reek of ignorance. Show me one line of racism in my comment. Or apologize.Recommend

  • wb

    Now we know him as a Nobody who is a Wannabe. And it’s not your website also, nor is it this blog writer’s.Recommend

  • wb

    My dearest Patwari, the non-Muslim world hates Muslims.
    And Muslims hate other Muslims.
    And most importantly, All Muslims hate Pakistan. Even Pakistanis hate Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Jealous of what? Being able to hug Trump?Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    Did I? Read carefully, never said it’s mine. You are getting frustrated now. But then it’s not India’s also. As for the writer, you can take him.Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    What about caste system? Hindu, Muslim, me the great, you the ignorant, what talk is that?Caste system gives rise to racism. BTW, Indians are the most ignorant nation in the world, the latest survey has revealed, so don’t take out your frustration upon me. There is no such thing as atheist Brahmin. When you call yourself Brahmin, there goes up in the air your atheism. Just by twisting words or talking fast,one does not become intelligent.Recommend

  • wb

    Read 100 times. I never said you said. Who’s frustrated now?Recommend

  • wb

    Caste is not a race. Islam is not a race. Brahmin is not a race. Atheism is not a race.

    Caste system and casteism are not even same, dear.
    And this nation of ignoramus has been to mars in the first attempt. Do the arithmetic or come to me

    I’m an atheist Brahmin. And I am a living, breathing being.

  • wb

    You should seriously stop listening to bedtime stories from your parents.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Request your response. Especially Indians are low skilled labor part.

    Has your bubble burst?Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    I’ve proved conclusively all the points you have made are wrong. Indians are the most educated, richest and most successful groups in the United States of America. I am waiting for a Thank You and acknowledgement from you.

    I’ve also quoted Telegraph which specifically says British Indians do way, way better than British Pakistanis. Please read the last 4 paras and acknowledge this also.

    Considering the trouble I’ve taken to educate you, you owe this much.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    You have predictably run away. So much for you bursting my bubble.

    When the truth is on one’s side, why would anyone run away?Recommend