Narendra Modi’s Visit to Washington and the Influence of Indian American Voters

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PM Modi US Visit

In a significant turn of events, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has been invited by President Joe Biden for a state visit and dinner, making him one of the few world leaders to receive such an honor. This gesture not only signifies the deep partnership between the United States and India on matters of foreign policy but also reflects the growing visibility and electoral influence of the Indian American community.

With nearly 5 million individuals, Indian Americans have become the second-largest immigrant group and the fastest-growing voting bloc in the United States. Their impact was evident in the record numbers of Indian American voters during the 2020 presidential election. This growing political clout can be seen in the halls of power, with an increased representation of Indian Americans in Congress and the historic election of Vice President Kamala Harris, who has Indian heritage.

Despite being predominantly Democratic voters, Indian Americans have shown a strong affinity for Narendra Modi. When Modi first came to power in 2014, he received an overwhelming reception from 20,000 spectators at a sold-out event in New York’s Madison Square Garden, the largest ever for a foreign leader. In 2019, Modi once again garnered immense support with a jubilant rally in Houston, attended by nearly 50,000 spectators.

A survey conducted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and YouGov in 2020 revealed that Indian Americans generally hold favorable views of Modi, with almost half approving of his performance as Prime Minister. Many members of the Indian diaspora perceive Modi as a leader who is restoring India’s prominence on the global stage. This perception aligns with India’s increasing geopolitical significance and its role in U.S. efforts to counter Chinese aggression.

While the majority of Indian Americans vote for Democrats, their support for Modi remains strong. In the 2020 election, approximately 74% of Indian American voters were believed to have backed Biden, compared to only 15% supporting Donald Trump, according to a survey by AAPI Data. The Republican Party recognizes the potential of Indian Americans as a natural constituency due to their entrepreneurial spirit, emphasis on low taxes and regulation, and social conservatism.

However, Modi’s visit poses a strategic challenge for President Biden, who has made human rights and democracy a cornerstone of his foreign policy agenda. Critics argue that by embracing Modi, whose tenure as Prime Minister has witnessed democratic backsliding in India, the U.S. President is contradicting his own principles. India under Modi has faced criticism for enacting discriminatory laws, suppressing dissent, and influencing the judiciary against political opponents.

The Biden administration’s decision to host Modi is seen as an acknowledgment of the limitations posed by the strategic imperatives of the U.S.-India partnership. It aims to maintain friendly relations while avoiding public confrontation over human rights issues. Nevertheless, opposing groups within the Indian American community plan to stage rallies both in support of and against Modi’s presence in Washington.

As Modi’s visit approaches, concerns persist among human rights advocates and some Indian Americans about the Indian government’s actions. The White House’s reception of Modi could inadvertently embolden Hindu nationalist groups within the Indian American community, potentially exacerbating communal tensions.

Narendra Modi’s upcoming state visit to Washington highlights the growing influence of the Indian American community in U.S. politics. Despite their predominantly Democratic leanings, Indian Americans have shown significant support for Modi, who is seen as instrumental in enhancing India’s global standing. While the visit raises concerns about human rights and democratic values, it underscores the complex dynamics between the United States, India, and the diverse perspectives within the Indian American community.