Handle the India-U.S. Relationship With Care

On the surface, the US-India relationship looks like a success. As both countries focus on China, business ties steadily deepen, and US-Pakistan relations are frozen, many of the old obstacles to the relationship have disappeared.

But an intense week of meetings in Bangalore and Delhi with politicians, think tanks, religious leaders and journalists made it clear that while Americans and Indians share strategic and economic interests and we both value democracy, we remain divided by important differences in values ​​and perceptions . If not carefully managed, these differences could derail US-India cooperation at a critical time.

Americans and Indians often see the same problem very differently. India, for example, does not see Russia’s attack on Ukraine as a threat to world order. While Americans are troubled by India’s continued willingness to buy oil from Russia, Indians reject attempts by the West to garner global support for what many here see as a predominantly Western problem in Ukraine. Noting that Europeans barely noticed China’s attacks on Indian border posts in 2020, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said at a conference in Bratislava, Slovakia last week that “Europe needs to outgrow the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems. ”

More generally, Indians get pissed off when they sense Americans and Europeans coming together to write global rules. The more American Wilsonians speak of a values-based international order, the more Indians worry about Western arrogance. Many Indians want a strong Russia and, within limits, a strong China, precisely to protect themselves from the kind of world order that President Biden and many of his advisers want to build.

This is more than the post-colonial suspicion of Western intentions that India has long shared with many other non-Western countries. The Hindu nationalist movement, which has replaced the long-ruling Congress Party with a new political system built around the Bharatiya Janata Party and its charismatic leader, Narendra Modi, has injected new momentum into India’s foreign policy. This new nationalist India wants to strengthen and develop Indian power, not submerge Indian sovereignty in Western-style international institutions.

The domestic political agenda of the Hindu nationalist movement may also create problems for US-India relations. For Hindu nationalists, the rule of the Muslim Mughal emperors, some of whom destroyed ancient Hindu temples and built mosques on their ruins, was as catastrophic as British colonialism was for Indian civilization. Sending the British home is not enough; The liberation of India means putting Hindu civilization back at the center of India’s cultural and political life. Many BJP supporters want the Indian government to defend India’s Hindu civilization and culture from Islam, Christianity and Western secular liberalism.

This form of Hindu nationalism leads to controversial political initiatives. Strict restrictions on foreign organizations’ ability to fund civil society groups in India threaten to disrupt the activities of American charities ranging from the Ford Foundation to the Catholic Church. Anti-conversion laws pose obstacles to both Christian and Muslim missionary efforts, and Hindu women who wish to marry without faith sometimes face intense social and governmental pressure. Communal violence, a problem in India since the days of the British Raj, has increased in recent years. Indian Muslims often express fears for their personal security.

American human rights groups have responded to these developments with growing concern, and last week Secretary of State Antony Blinken described India as a country “where religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities are under threat.” Such utterances are more likely to incite anti-colonial and anti-Western sentiment than exonerate minority communities. Hindu nationalism is, among other things, a demand that Indian civilization be accepted as morally and spiritually equal to the West. America has its race problems and mass shootings, Indians say. What gives Americans the right to tell India how to live?

These conflicts will not go away and are likely to worsen over time. Hindu nationalism is here to stay. So are the communal tensions in India, and so is the belief of many Americans that they have a solemn duty to tell people in other countries and cultures how to live — and on unfortunate occasions when they don’t take ours, to impose sanctions Advice. If bilateral relations are to thrive, Indians and Americans must find better ways to deal with these chronic problems.

India and the US are desperately democratic societies, and their foreign policies cannot ignore public opinion. Managing this critical relationship will never be easy. Building deeper connections between the two societies will help; Ditto for calm, low-key conversations aimed at preventing explosions before they happen. Both sides need this relationship; We both have to focus on making it work.

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/india-handle-with-care-modi-china-russia-narendra-democracy-hindu-america-blinken-11654539987 Handle the India-U.S. Relationship With Care

Alley Einstein

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