During a state visit to the US, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was welcomed with grandeur and received a standing ovation in the US Congress. Marking a significant shift in US-India relations. This transformation is noteworthy considering that Modi had been previously denied a US visa due to human rights concerns before assuming office as Prime Minister. The US now perceives India as a vital ally and a key player in countering China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Although India has approached this role cautiously at times.
In his address to Congress, PM Modi did not explicitly mention China. But he alluded to “dark clouds of coercion and confrontation casting their shadow over the Indo-Pacific.” He also avoided direct references to Russia in relation to the Ukraine conflict. Instead stated that “war has returned to Europe.”
The complex relationship between India and Russia is characterised by defence and oil trade dependencies. That has strained ties between the US and India. However, President Joe Biden chose to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship. Emphasizing that the bond between the two countries is stronger than ever and labelling it as “one of the defining relationships of the 21st Century.”
Echoing this sentiment, Prime Minister Modi described the US-India relationship as the convergence of two great democracies. He emphasised that their friendship would play a pivotal role in strengthening the global community. He highlighted the addition of a “new chapter” to the comprehensive and global-strategic partnership between the two nations.
Prime Minister Modi Engages with Reporters, Addresses Human Rights Concerns
While protests and criticism surrounded Prime Minister Modi’s visit, particularly regarding his government’s handling of dissent and minority rights. It was also embraced by a significant diaspora, including influential CEOs from Silicon Valley. However, some liberal Democrats chose to boycott his speech in Congress. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed on Twitter that state visits should not be extended to individuals with “deeply troubling human rights records.”
In addition to the extravagant ceremonies, advancements were made in trade during the visit. Both nations reached agreements to resolve six ongoing disputes at the World Trade Organization. Moreover, significant deals were announced with General Electric and Micron.
Furthermore, Prime Minister Modi deviated from his usual practice by engaging with reporters. That is a rare occurrence since assuming office in 2014. When questioned about human rights issues in India, he emphasized that democracy is deeply ingrained in the country and stated unequivocally that there is no room for discrimination. These remarks were made as protests took place outside the White House, opposing his visit.