What the West Wants from Modi
Broad western concerns about a candidate like Modi, with a background in fiercely conservative, religious revivalist mass organisations, may well prove to be unfounded. They are not, however, illegitimate. Either way, western policymakers have made it very clear that they are not going to let any such worries get in the way of doing business. These are essentially seen as internal matters, and no one wants to get involved in the granularity of Indian politics. First the UK, then the EU and finally the US have all signalled that they are more than happy to deal with Modi, whatever flak they take for it domestically. There are lucrative contracts on offer, of course, and there is also the hope that India, for all its fractiousness and recent loss of form, might once again look set to punch its weight in the region. This might not make it a counterweight to Beijing on its own, or necessarily aligned with the West, but at the very least a key part in the complex web of diplomatic, commercial, military and other elements that is being put in place to contain and channel Chinese expansionist energies. On Pakistan and Afghanistan, from where international combat troops will be withdrawn by the yearend, western policymakers are looking to India to play a steadying role. The UPA’s policy towards both countries had met with broad approval, so the West will be looking for continuity. There is a concern that Modi may be tempted to react to any provocation from across the border in a significantly more muscular way than his predecessor did, but there is also an understanding that he may have the nationalist credentials within India to make a bold gesture. Of course, these are the simple answers. There is much loose talk of “the West” as a single entity, as there is of “Asia” or “Africa”. The concerns and interests of the EU and the US do differ, as do those of individual countries. There is plenty of space for a Modi-led India to try a little overseas “divide and rule” of its own.