Is the India-US honeymoon coming to an end soon?
Published: Dec 17, 2023 08:34 PM
Illustration:Chen Xia/GT

Illustration:Chen Xia/GT

There has been serious trouble brewing in the geopolitical paradise of the convenient but strategic alignment between India and the US. According to Indian media citing government sources, US President Joe Biden would not travel to India for the Republic Day parade in January. This diplomatic snub, aimed at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India as a whole, is indicative of a significant shift in US-India relations, and the consequences could be far-reaching. 

To understand the bigger picture, recent events must be analyzed as the culmination of numerous unfriendly American actions toward India. These are startling, given the deep economic links and the "shared democratic values." 

Theoretically, Americans should be extremely happy about their relations with India. Consider these three outcomes:

First, brain drain: America is able to lure the smartest engineers from India. 

Second, huge market: America enjoys a virtual monopoly in key sectors - social media, e-commerce, financial technology and more - in the rapidly growing Indian economy, which is projected to surpass Japan and Germany by 2030.

Third, narrative control: The No.1 English TV channel in India is CNN, and almost all the influential think tanks in India are pro-US. Regarding China, the Washington consensus permeates the mainstream narrative in India.

However, it seems the US is still displeased.

This year witnessed India and the West becoming entangled in multiple disputes. Firstly, there was a BBC documentary that re-examined the 2002 Muslim-Hindu conflict in Gujarat, which occurred when Modi was the chief minister of the state. Then came a classic Western attack using separatists. Canada - a member of the Five Eyes - accused the Indian government of orchestrating the assassination of a Sikh separatist in Canada. This was followed by an indictment in the US, which alleges that an Indian government official conspired in a murder-for-hire plot targeting Sikh separatists in the US.

Note that true allies never worry about America harboring dissidents - say, French Canadian separatists or Basque separatists from Spain. Only when a country is targeted for destabilization would the US government discover violations of human rights and freedom. China understands these subversion tactics, thanks to what the US has done on the island of Taiwan and in Xizang, as well as Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

More revealingly, Western media have been crying crocodile tears about democracy in India since Modi came to power. Here are some sensational headlines:

"Modi's India is where global democracy dies" (New York Times)
"Modi's personality cult has replaced India's democracy" (Foreign Policy)
"India's authoritarian streak" (Foreign Affairs, a publication of the extremely powerful Council on Foreign Relations)
"'Electoral autocracy': The downgrading of India's democracy" (BBC)

It's very hard to please the US establishment, which demands total allegiance and submission from all its "allies."

First, India cherishes its friendship with Russia, a unique and strategic partner. India's refusal to ostracize Putin since the Ukraine war has irked the Biden administration, which foolishly hoped to devastate the Russian economy with sanctions. 

Second, US corporate overlords have been extremely disappointed with India's progress in replacing China as the manufacturing powerhouse. Offshoring has been a very slow process, since India's manufacturing capability is 20 years behind China. For example, about 10 percent of iPhones are being assembled in India now, while many components are imported from China.

Finally, India's support for BRICS expansion and a multipolar world has made many Americans have doubts as to whether India is a reliable partner.

US elites are trapped in an echo chamber where they tell one another that America is the greatest country, its unipolar hegemony will last forever and China's collapse is imminent. Astoundingly, these people are unaware of the emerging multipolar world, the game-changing expansion of BRICS, the Global South's new paradigm of trade and development, the coming tsunami of de-dollarization, utter failures of US trade and tech wars against China, and Russia's victory against the US and NATO in Ukraine. 

Given such a tragic state of affairs, it's very likely that the US will ratchet up the pressure on India, punishing it for its strategic autonomy. If the honeymoon turns into a nightmare, I hope India will seek rapprochement with China, a neighboring ancient civilization. Ironically, the US might end up as the Western empire that made significant contributions to the rise of the Asian century. 

The author is a geopolitical analyst, columnist, blogger, podcaster, and writer based out of Bangalore, India. His work can be found on Substack, X and more. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn