What to takeaway from Modi’s US visit?

There’s not an universal euphoria in US for PM Modi but the right-wing influenced media sells you that anyway.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit has received the central attention for over a week now. He left for a foreign tour which includes a 3 day visit to the United States of America (USA) and a trip from there to Egypt. He addressed a joint session of the US Congress for the second term, after his first stint in 2016. He met Tesla Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many other personalities including people from academia, health & tech.

PM Modi in US Congress

The whole US visit has been used as a great PR exercise by the Modi administration both in India and abroad. Interestingly, the Modi Government is accused of spending around Rs.6,500 crores since it assumed office in 2014 according to a response made in the Parliament in December 2022. The right-wing ecosystem is elated about Elon Musk’s comments about Narendra Modi where he said that he is a fan of Modi. More importantly, Neil deGrasse Tyson said Prime Minister Modi is “scientifically thoughtful and the sky is not the limit for him”.


How scientific is Modi though?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi & his party members have a dubious reputation for making some of the most unscientific statements. In 2014, Prime Minister Modi said that genetic science existed during the times of Mahabharata. The important thing to note is, Mahabharata may be an epic literature and a religious mythology but, it’s not history. In the same event, he said Lord Ganesha is evidence for plastic surgery existing in pre-historic period. In 2019, he said in an interview that he suggested that Balakot Air Strike could be conducted despite clouds and rain, as they would prevent Pakistani radars from detecting Indian fighter jets during the air strike.

Though PM Modi never makes unscripted/impromptu interviews or press meets, we do not get to see more of these statements. But his party members have been making equally ridiculous statements to fill the void. From cow urine curing cancer, existence of internet thousands of years ago, Science & Technology Minister claiming Vedic theory superior to Einstein’s E=mc^2  to a Minister of State for Human Resource Development calling Darwin’s evolution theory as scientifically wrong, we have seen it all. Most recently, the NCERT was panned universally for removing periodic table, theory of evolution etc from books though it was clarified that they were removed only from the 10th standard books. Several such changes were made in variety of subjects including political science which prompted Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar to ask NCERT to drop their name as chief advisers of Political Science textbooks for Class 9 to 12 which was later followed by 33 academicians.

Neil deGrasse Tyson may be forgiven for not knowing how ‘scientifically thoughtful’ Prime Minister Modi or his party ideologies are. But the fact is, scientific temper in India has hit an all-time low in India since PM Modi came to office in 2014.

How is the US treating PM Modi’s visit?

The White House and President Biden are going all the way by extending an invitation for the state visit. PM Modi is only the 3rd Indian to have been on a state visit to the US and he would also be the first Indian head of state to address the joint parliament session twice. The Biden Administration is going all guns blazing in receiving and even celebrating PM Modi’s visit.

But why?

The White House’s reception of Modi is understandable given the fact that US has become India’s biggest trading partner meanwhile India being among the top 10 biggest trading partners of the US for quite some time. India is soon slated to be the third largest economy in the coming years which significantly increases India’s voice in the global stage. There is also a strategic economic and military interest that the US and the west in general have to counter the threat of China’s domination. In many ways, the importance given to Modi is actually given to the political entity called India rather than an individual. Meanwhile, PM Modi has also shaped his image on the global stage and cemented his place to a certain extent which should not be discounted.

 Not all roses

The White House and the Biden Administration may be singing praises of Narendra Modi. Over 70 US Senators and Congressmen wrote to the US President urging him to discuss the issues such as “troubling signs in India toward the shrinking of political space, the rise of religious intolerance, the targeting of civil society organizations and journalists, and growing restrictions on press freedoms and internet access.” The letter also cited the US Department of State’s “2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: India” to raise their concern.

 Bernie Sanders, independent Senator from the state of Vermont who ran for Democratic Party nomination twice and is one of the towering figures in contemporary American politics, pressed President Biden to raise issues of “crack down on the press and civil society, jailed political opponents, and pushed an aggressive Hindu nationalism”.

Even at the State level, elected representatives of New York City and State governments, denounced PM Modi’s visit.


Apart from lawmakers, there were even mobilisation in online and offline platforms against Modi Government’s actions in India which resulted in a twitter trend #CrimeMinisterofIndia that was launched along with a van with digital boards. There are even various articles written about collapse of democracy in India.


Take Away from Modi’s US visit:

Apart from the plans of setting up of new embassies in Bengaluru & Ahmedabad, India joining Artemis accord, changes to H1B visa renewal process which would benefit Indians and other important developments that have happened during Modi’s visit, the key takeaway from Modi’s visit should not measure in economical or strategical terms alone. Even then, there is not a universal consensus in the US about Modi though they respect India. After all, it is only after Modi became the Prime Minister, he was allowed to set foot in the US soil and there is no guarantee that the US would put back the ban on Modi when he is not the Prime Minister of India anymore. So, respect to India should not be entirely attributed to one person who is currently the representative of the country.

Significant importance should be given to the political side as well and given the circumstances, it should be taking the centre stage with Modi & the BJP is up for re-election for the third time in less than a year.

In probably the first ever press meet that Narendra Modi has given since his election to the office in 2014, PM Modi allowed himself to be asked just 2 questions. One such question was asked regarding the rising intolerance and treatment of minorities in India. PM Modi denied the charges by saying he was surprised by the question and gave a sermon about democracy. The world is increasingly focused on what Narendra Modi and his government is doing in dealing with democratic institutions and values and it is quite evident following several of the recent developments. 

Although no one would intervene in India’s internal efforts, nor they should, as they wouldn’t want any diplomatic meltdown or any repercussions, the fact that it is becoming a point of interest in international arena portrays India’s democracy in bad light. It is time for the mainstream media, the fourth pillar of democracy, to pull up their socks and question the Modi Government about its policies and actions which undermine democracy and continue to create religious divisions in the country, rather than second fiddle to it. After all, questioning a ruling party and its policies & its leader does constitute insulting the country. 

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Ramasamy Jayaprakash

Ramasamy works as a Sub-Editor at YouTurn and writes English articles. He makes videos for YouTurn's Tamil & English YouTube channels.
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