Indo-Pacific Strategy’s Hindu-Fascist Blind Spot
There are some things you need to know that aren’t getting attention about India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visit to Washington. And it’s not just about Modi’s politics or “democracy v. autocracy.”
I mean, yes, best-selling author and voice of conscience, Arundati Roy, has spoken against the Modi regime in India for some time and sees India under his leadership as slipping into Hindu fascism.
She’s not alone.
Salman Rushdie recently described India under Modi as a
very autocratic state which is unkind to minorities, which is fantastically oppressive of journalists, where people are very afraid.
The rap sheet on Modi and the BJP (his party) is long. Human Rights Watch has multiple reports documenting the illiberal slide of Indian democracy. In 2022:
Authorities throughout India arrested activists, journalists, and other critics of the government on politically motivated criminal charges, including of terrorism.
The ongoing political nightmare in parts of India is much worse than even that conveys.
Why, then, is the Biden administration feting him at the White House with a state dinner?
Why is the Congress giving him the honor of addressing a joint session of Congress?
Why is the Pentagon selling his government MQ-9 armed Predator drones, co-producing jet engines with their defense-industrial base, and cooperating with his government on the very advanced technologies (AI, quantum computing) that the United States is trying to deny China?
And why do progressive members of Congress rightly insist that Biden broach religious and ethnic persecution in India during his meetings with Modi yet nevertheless support the Pentagon’s defense relationship with this “Hindu-fascist,” “very autocratic state?”
The dumb answer, which my friend Hunter kindly provided (in jest):
The idea that geopolitics—or specifically China—is the reason why we should fall all over ourselves courting Modi and selling him weapons confuses motivation with justification (wouldn’t be the first time—this is also a problem animating AUKUS).
US policy toward India is not realpolitik; it’s what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism.” It makes the world more dangerous and harms US interests.
Let me explain.