India will remain a big part of the US pivot toward Asia.
WASHINGTON, DC: After a resounding victory for Narendra Modi and the BJP/NDA, the question arises why was this such a convincing win and what does it mean for the future of India and its relations with the United States.
In part, the win is undoubtedly attributable to the media savvy campaign run by the charismatic Mr. Modi who worked tirelessly in the run-up to the election and throughout the election process (9 voting days spread between April 7 and May 12) to persuade the electorate that he and his party have the right stuff to correct India’s many ills.
In larger part, however, it may be attributed to the terrible performance over the past few years of the current party in power, the Indian National Congress (commonly known as the Congress party) and the ruling coalition of parties called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The Congress party had 206 seats in the outgoing Lok Sabha. It secured only 44 seats in this election cycle.
The Congress party and the UPA sowed the seeds of their own undoing. The upper echelons of the party have been rocked by a series of corruption-related scandals and because of this and other factors the country has suffered from governmental and policy paralysis.
This paralysis brought the India economy – which had been one of the fastest growing in the world until recently – to a grinding halt. Under the Congress party’s leadership, India’s economy, the envy of the world as, has lost virtually all momentum.
According to The New York Times, “In 2013, a record 35% of Indians polled felt that the national economy, and Pew reports that 89 percent of people felt that rising prices were ‘a very big problem.’” These numbers and the election results prove that in this 2014 election – just as it was in the United States in 1992- it was the economy that played the key role in helping voters decide.
For his supporters, Modi was the perfect antidote to all that ails India at the moment, including corruption, misgovernance and lack of muscular leadership. In Gujarat, he has built a record that matches favorably with that of the central government in the past five years, especially in the areas of governance and development, and in bringing in foreign investments.
This was one of the reasons Indian markets reacted very positively to Modi’s emergence as the leading contender for Prime Minister. According to Reuters, since the BJP nominated Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, India’s National Stock Exchange has risen 17 percent. On Monday, May 12 as the voting ended, the stock markets closed at a second straight record high.
Over the next year to two, it will be determined whether the euphoria in the financial markets and electorate is deserved. Modi’s plans has emphasized creating jobs and building the economy as the cornerstone of his campaign, as well as assuring the country that minorities are not at risk under his government.
Turning the focus from India, what will the newly constituted government mean for matters of interest for the United States?
US-India relations have been a little patchy as of late. Even though bilateral trade has been increasing steadily, major differences have emerged between the two nations in areas such as intellectual property rights, lack of progress in the implementation of civil nuclear issues and America’s crackdown on Indian companies dependent on H1-B visas, among other issues.
There was acrimony in India over the arrest and eventual deportation of one of its diplomats, Devyani Khobgrade, in New York, a few months ago. There were also tit-for-tat moves on the part of India, such as removing the security barricade in front of the US embassy in Delhi and taking away any non-reciprocal privileges American diplomats enjoyed in India.
There will most likely not be any drastic change in India’s foreign policy with the change in governance. There exists a broad consensus between the Congress and the BJP on India’s US policy. India was a big part of the US pivot toward Asia, and will undoubtedly remain so.
No one can forecast exactly what will happen to the relationship between India and the United States going forward.
There are, however, two clear conclusions that can be drawn with certainty based upon the results of this contest: there were two winners – Modi and his BJP; and the other was democracy itself.
(Global India Newswire)