The New Giant of Indian Politics

Aditya Ramachandran, Staff Writer ||

Though the United Nations General Assembly attracted a significant amount of attention, the presence of one world leader seemed to dominate the American media earlier this week: the state visit of India’s Narendra Modi, who recently culminated his maiden Prime Ministerial trip to the United States.

After the bloody carnage of the religiously-motivated riots in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002, in which at least 1,000 people (mainly Muslims) were killed, Modi, then Chief Minister of the State, was banned from traveling to America. American officials called him a monster, a demagogue and a fanatic. Earlier this week, they shut down the streets of Manhattan for him.

After the Prime Minister’s highly publicized appearance at Madison Square Garden (a venue typically associated with the likes of the New York Knicks and Jay Z) in front of 20,000 screaming Americans, Modi has cemented, in the collective consciousness, his status as one of the world’s most dynamic and vibrant statesmen.

As he sat beside President Obama on Tuesday, exuding a confidence and self-authority unheard of in Indian statesmen of the last decade, his message to the American government was clear: I have constituents in your constituencies.

To the throngs that packed the Garden earlier this week, Modi symbolized one thing: hope. He is, as is commonly believed, their Lee Kuan Yew, a man who will take the beloved and impossible homeland that they left and turn it into a real success, one that does not depend on the hyperbolic whims of the Western media for affirmation of its worth.

Modi’s visit comes at a time when millions in India have felt overlooked by the Obama administration, a government weighed down by burdens in the Middle East and other pockets of the Asian continent. It is just this that makes the pragmatism of his government so significant.

Though it is widely presumed that the prime minister’s personal relationship with the United States is wracked with distrust and antagonism, his eagerness to put the trappings of history behind him bode well for all those that believe in the inherent value of democracy, a system that is seen in contemporary times as inferior to more effective, authoritarian means of governance. It is the relationship between these two democratic powerhouses, arguably one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships, that seems as if it is finally undergoing a U-Turn. During the visit, significant strides were made in the fields of business, intelligence, defense, and national security.

All that being said, however, a number of critical issues were not addressed: namely climate change, nuclear energy, and human rights.

The global prevalence of democracy, the only political framework that allows individuals to truly shape their own destinies, depends enormously on the relationship between the world’s largest democracy and its greatest and most powerful one. It is in our interest to watch and hope that the future trajectory of the US-India bilateral relationship proves to survive the travails of global geopolitics and flourish for years to come.

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