What the West Wants from Modi

The Economic Times - - World View - JA­SON BURKE

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.

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