What do Americans think of Narendra Modi

An end to the Trump-Modi duo?

Even before the election offices in the USA open, India already knows the result. Based on the constellation of the planets, astrologers have determined that Donald Trump will emerge victorious, with a lead of at least 400,000 votes.

In a WhatsApp message, a planet-gazer named S. C. Tripathi calculated that Trump's horoscope, "with the lion in the ascendant and the sun in the tenth house" will have the upper hand over "Joseph Robinette Biden". His “ailing Mars” gave him “victories in eight states, but too few votes” - a judgment that does not suggest that he had too much knowledge of the American electoral system.

India's astrologers have a reputation for not only following the orbits of the planets, perhaps more than in other countries, but also looking at the preferences of their clients when delivering their verdict. It is therefore quite possible that Tripathi's prediction is no more than India's Vox Populi.

And this, according to opinion polls, prefers the current resident of the White House to its democratic rival. Recently, an Indian who died in the pandemic was one of the few among the 200,000 nameless Covid deaths to receive the honor of a national media obituary. The reason for the attention: He had built a temple in which Donald Trump was the resident deity. Even Biden's decision for Kamala Harris as a candidate for the office of vice president has not shaken this preference for the Polterer (Harris ’mother comes from Tamil Nadu).

Demonstrative hugs

That is not surprising in a country that last year elected a man as head of government for the second time who has already been as booming as Trump for five years on the nationalist drum. And like Trump, Narendra Modi also mocked minorities and made human rights an issue. The fact that Trump's stance in this regard is not quite as devastating as Modi's is only thanks to their democratic institutions, which have proven to be more resistant than those of India.

No wonder, then, that the two men enjoyed each other and embraced at every opportunity. At a major event at a baseball stadium in Houston, they ran hand in hand for a lap of honor to thunderous applause. The following year, Modi thanked him with a parallel appearance in the cricket oval in Ahmedabad. Trump introduced him to his family in Houston, he called into the crowd. Now he is introducing Trump into his Indian family - as if the two were a newlywed couple on their first family visit.

Trump was again in Delhi last February. He refused to say a word about the riots that Hindutva gangs started at the same time in several Muslim neighborhoods in the city. He was also not moved to comment on the political lockdown of Kashmir.

Close ties despite the reluctance of the autocrats

However, it is an old knowledge that dictators with their innate narcissism often cannot stand each other. The bosom friendship with Modi did not stop Trump from making fun of his Hinglish in front of employees, calling India a bastard and tightening the screw of trade and personal restrictions.

Despite the bitter trade dispute, which received little media attention in the shadow of the US-Chinese conflict, the strategic relationship has also deepened under Trump. The two states have come even closer to each other, particularly on security issues. It is not because two old men are holding hands, but because of the geopolitical upheavals that India and the USA are now close allies.

Nothing shows this as clearly as the joint visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to Delhi a week ago. Indian commentators noted that such a visit, so close to a highly competitive presidential election, would have been criticized as an illegal campaign maneuver in any other country.

Unifying common enemy

But neither the liberal US media nor the Biden camp clashed with it. It was a sign that the US policy towards India - and all of Asia - enjoys broad "bipartisan support". The reason is easy to guess. It's called China. Both in Delhi and Washington, Beijing's claim and appearance as a leading world power is understood as aggression that both want to oppose together.

Since the Chinese occupation of sections of land under Indian control in Ladakh in June, India has found it increasingly difficult not to fully and explicitly join the anti-Chinese camp. The Indian counterparts Rajnath Singh (defense) and S. Jayshankar (exterior) avoided any mention of the C-word. But both Pompeo and Esper mentioned this "Chinese aggression", knowing full well that they did it - with impunity - in the Indian capital.

The reason for the visit was the signing of a “Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement” (BECA). It is the fourth and last stone in a comprehensive contract architecture that regulates the relationship between the two armed forces in the area of ​​geospatial military cooperation.

Specifically, this means that India will now have access to data from American military satellites. This ranges from the coordinates to the stationing of missile bases, the shifting of troops of an enemy to radio communications between enemy command posts, for example along the Indian-Tibetan border.

Long-term security policy

The two American ministers were able to travel to Delhi all the more unabashedly as these treaties are not the result of the rapprochement between Trump and Modi. Indian media indicated that negotiations on this began twenty years ago. Therefore, this closer military cooperation is likely to deepen even under a Biden administration.

This is probably also the reason why the Indian ministers avoided not only the C-word but also the T-word in their statements to the media. President Trump would certainly have liked to have Prime Minister Modi thanked him for this further world-historical achievement of the Grand Helmsman - but nothing of the kind was heard.

The security policy brackets of bilateral relations will continue to give the relationship stability under Joe Biden. India has always eluded Washington's strategic embrace, and even did so during the Modi-Trump duo. This independence will continue to be maintained, no matter how much China continues its hegemonic policy - and the US maintains its own.

The populist waters in which the relations have so far sailed will, however, dry up with a successful Biden-Harris ticket. In recent years, Biden has clearly criticized both the BJP's policy on human rights and the violation of basic democratic rules and the secular constitutional principle.

It is to be expected that as President, with a Vice-President of Indian descent at his side, he will continue to maintain this stance. Biden had already mentioned a personal connection to India when he was Obama's Vice President in 2013: An ancestor living five generations back lived in India as captain of the "East India Company" - and married an Indian woman.