Modi Visits US Amidst Human Rights Criticism

Arif Jamal

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently embarked on a state visit to the United States, where he addressed a joint session of Congress. However, Modi’s visit was met with huge criticism from both India and the US. Many questioned America’s stance on Modi’s illiberal and anti-democratic policies. They raised concerns about Modi’s past human rights record in Gujarat when he was the Chief Minister of the state, as well as the growing discrimination against Muslims since he assumed office as Prime Minister. As a result, there were calls for US President Joe Biden to discuss these issues with Modi during the visit.

However, the White House declined to raise the concerns regarding human rights violations and discrimination against Muslims during their meeting with Modi. They stated that President Biden would not lecture Modi on India’s democratic record during the visit. In a joint press conference at the White House, Modi faced a single scripted question, raising eyebrows as he appeared to answer from a teleprompter. Although the question was related to minority rights, Modi chose to emphasize India’s democratic achievements rather than directly addressing the concerns about minority rights in the country.

Modi’s US Visit: Obama’s Views on Minority Rights in India

Former US President Barack Obama weighed in on Modi’s visit. Expressing his belief, he said that that discussing the rights of ethnic minorities, particularly Muslim minorities, with Modi was essential. Obama emphasized that if India fails to protect the rights of ethnic minorities, it risks “pulling apart.” However, his comments drew criticism from leaders of India’s ruling government. BJP leader and Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sharma, who was sarcastically questioned if action would be taken against Obama by the Assam police for criticizing the Prime Minister replied that he would go after “Hussain Obamas” within the country first. It is worth noting that the Assam police is known for taking action against critics of Modi.

Also Read: Why Is Indian PM Modi’s Silent About Attacks Against Muslims?

Backlash from Indian Leaders towards Obama

India’s Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, also strongly rebuked Obama for his statement. She suggesting that Obama was the real enemy of Muslims, while Modi was a friend to the Muslim community. Sitharaman supported her claim with data, pointing out that during Obama’s tenure, he had conducted military operations in six Muslim-majority countries. At the same time, out of the total 13 state honours that Modi has received, six were from Muslim-majority countries.

Notably, Egypt recently conferred its highest state honour on Modi, further highlighting his international recognition by Muslim dictators. In 2018, the Palestinian Authority also awarded him the Grand Collar of the State of Palestine, the highest Palestinian honor for foreign dignitaries.

Also Read: BBC’s Modi Documentary Rattles Modi Government

Modi’s Ban from Entering the US

It is significant to mention that prior to becoming Prime Minister in 2014, Modi had faced a decade-long ban from entering the US due to “severe violations of religious freedom”. He was the only person in the world denied a US visa for this reason. However, after assuming office, the US revoked the ban, allowing him to travel to the country on several occasions.

Strategic Interests: US-India Partnership

The question that arises is why the US chose to host Modi despite his democratic transgressions. In recent years, there has been a growing strategic interest between the US and India, driven by the rise of China. While India had previously adopted a non-aligned foreign policy, it is now leaning towards closer ties with the US. The US sees India’s geographic location as an advantage in countering China’s influence and seeks to involve India in its strategy to contain China, especially considering India’s existing disputes with its neighboring country. As a member of the QUAD, a group aiming to counter China, India’s support is crucial for the US.

US’ Compromised Stance on Human Rights

It is worth noting that while the US often speaks out against authoritarian regimes with which it lacks mutual interests, it paradoxically encourages and supports worse authoritarians and dictators around the world if they align with its interests. The US operates based on the principle of pursuing its permanent interests rather than maintaining permanent friendships.

Also Read: Why BJP is Fascist Despite Contesting Elections.?

Balancing Interests and Ethics

In conclusion, Modi’s recent visits to the US was marred by criticism regarding his human rights record and concerns about the treatment of minority communities in India. Despite these criticisms, the US government chose to host Modi, prioritizing strategic interests and the containment of China over addressing human rights issues. The strategic partnership between the US and India has gained importance due to the geopolitical dynamics in the region. India’s potential as a counterbalance to China has led the US to turn a blind eye to Modi’s policies against the Muslim minority. India’s participation in the QUAD, a coalition aimed at countering China’s influence, further solidifies its significance in the US strategy.

While the US is known for condemning authoritarian regimes, it often compromises its principles when there are mutual interests at stake. This inconsistency raises questions about the ethical foundations of US foreign policy and its willingness to support leaders with questionable democratic records.

(Source: MZEMO)