The world’s largest democracy has swept Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into power, and they’re trying to figure out what he’s going to do to change India:
The new composition of parliament is significant, as are a number of other factoids about this election. The BJP has returned at least 279 seats in the partial count while its coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has comfortably secured leads in over 330 constituencies, giving it absolute control of the lower house (Lok Sabha), while the BJP itself has a majority in the house. This means stability – that one word missing from the dictionary of Indian politics for the past 25 years.
Meanwhile back in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Braves, we’re fixated on his past and our own legal finickiness:
India’s voters had brought to power a man who is not permitted to visit the United States, having been denied a U.S. visa in 2005 on account of a State Department determination that he had violated religious freedoms in the Indian state of Gujarat. (Some 2,000 Muslims had died in riots that scarred Gujarat in 2002. Modi was the state’s chief minister at the time, and his critics hold him responsible for the deaths.) The visa ban was still in place when Modi was nominated last September to lead the Bharatiya Janata [Indian People’s] Party into the elections; and most awkwardly for Obama, the ban was still technically in place on the day of his victory. American diplomacy has been decidedly maladroit.
“Decidedly maladroit” is an understatement. Given that nothing is ever really closed in our legal system, should Modi even risk coming to these shores? He may not have to:
Modi’s keenest ally—potentially his BFF—is likely to be Japan’s Shinzo Abe, who was one of the first to send his congratulations to the Indian politician when it became apparent that he would be the next prime minister. Abe and Modi are, in many ways, made for each other: Ardent nationalists yearning to break free from their respective nations’ patterns of international passivity, they both face the terrifying challenge of a China that plays by its own unyielding rules, a maximalist hegemon which has the economic and military heft to dispense with diplomacy as the primary means of dispute resolution.
The United States’ position wouldn’t be so hypocritical if, in its theoretical obsession with the rule of law, it wouldn’t be so busy trying to bury its own inconvenient scandals–Fast and Furious, the IRS/Tea Party business, Benghazi–which its chattering classes find so distasteful to discuss.
A long time ago I wrote this; some of this stuff reminds me of what I put there as fantasy. If we’re not really careful, we’ll end up with the same result, too.