Novembers-a-Comin

November is a month that the Indian government should be worried about. There is an unspoken rule in international politics that interference in the domestic politics of a foreign government is usually frowned upon. By doing this you run the risk of alienating potential future allies. India has been fortunate thus far in that it is one of the few countries that enjoys bi-partisan support in Washington foreign policy. The 2005 nuclear deal was signed between Manmohan Singh and George W. Bush and the Obama administration made nice with the BJP government when the 2014 Lok Sabha elections saw the UPA being replaced by the NDA. What has always put the brakes on the word “strategic partner” being used as opposed to friend/ally is the fact that both Washington and India have their own agenda and very often that has resulted in decisions being taken for structural reasons.

Trump and Modi however seem to have broken the mould. The Howdy Modi event as well as the reception that Trump received in Motera have created the illusion that the two leaders seem to view the other as a natural ally. Critically, they seem to bolster the shared narrative of anti-establishment figures who are not afraid to take tough decision to advance the interests of their nations.

In political communication between the two countries, you often see the term “shared values” being used often. This refers to the fact that India and America have democratic systems, which often signals to other adjacent concepts such as rule of law and concern for human rights. Trump seems to be a more transactional leader and does not seem to pay heed to traditional American foreign policy directives. What India should be concerned about is that this approach seems to have an expiry date on it. Trump won’t be the President after 2024.

Progressives in the Democratic party do not feel as kindly about the transactional nature of American foreign policy at the moment. Ilhan Omar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren expressed concern about the riots that took place in Delhi which quite surprisingly coincided with Trumps visit. Others like Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal, Democrats of Indian descent have also spoken out about the current polarized nature of Indian politics. By tying himself to Trump, Modi has erred in creating the conditions where a Democratic president in either 2020 or 2024 could feel compelled to pull back on a closer relationship to placate sections of the American political establishment.

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