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Modi has five more people in power in India; What does this mean for the world?

Narendra Modi raised the stature of India on the global stage in a way that no other recent leader of the world’s most populous country has managed to do.

The prime minister — who secured a rare third term in office this week — has positioned India and its fast-growing economy as a crucial player on global issues such as climate change and development. It also cemented the capital New Delhi as a key security partner for the United States and positioned the country as an aspiring leader of the Global South.

Modi’s victory will give the 73-year-old leader and the Indian People’s Party (Bharatiya Janata, in Hindi) another five years to increase India’s global stature — and to manage contentious relations and contested borders with its nuclear-armed neighbors, China and Pakistan.

But the election results also place Modi in a radically different position than the one he enjoyed during his first decade in power.

The larger-than-life leader and his BJP fell far short of the expected absolute majority and must rely on coalition partners to form a government.

This has been widely seen as a shocking setback for the leader and his party. They have been accused by critics of fueling Islamophobia and religious violence in India, while rolling back civil liberties and failing to address livelihood issues such as rising youth unemployment.

Now, Modi will need to “dedicate a lot of time to internal negotiations to keep the government intact with a coalition of different agendas,” said TV Paul, author of the book “The Unfinished Quest: India’s Search for Major Power Status from Nehru to Modi.”

“This idea of ​​India pulling its weight may be much less viable for now, given that foreign policy issues did not have as much impact on the electoral decision as people thought they would.”

Power politics

One aspect of India’s international ambitions that is unlikely to change in Modi’s new term is New Delhi’s relationship with Washington — a link that has helped build the prime minister’s image as a power player in global chess.

India has emerged as a key security partner for the United States, an important pillar of its “Quad” security group alongside Japan and Australia. Additionally, the countries have expanded high-tech and defense cooperation amid shared concern about an increasingly assertive and powerful China.

In a congratulatory message to Modi on his victory earlier this week, the American president, Joe Biden said US-India friendship “is only growing as we unlock a shared future of unlimited potential.”

According to analysts, this relationship, however, is only expected to strengthen in the short term.

“The two countries share concerns about regional stability and are overseeing increasing defense cooperation,” said Farwa Aamer, director of South Asia Initiatives at Asia Society Policy Institute, in New York. “We can look forward to a more purposeful India, aligning closely with US interests in the Indo-Pacific and expanding technological collaboration.”

Ties between New Delhi and Washington have warmed in recent years, even as Modi has steadfastly pursued India’s policy of strategic autonomy to drive a global order not purely dominated by the United States or US-China rivalry — another goal that is likely to remain unchanged until to the elections. New Delhi, for example, has refused to give up its close relationship with Russia, despite US pressure on its partners to cut ties with the war-torn country.

But one question is how Modi’s third term will affect concerns spreading in American political circles about a widely documented rollback of civil liberties in India under his right-wing leadership — as well as accusations that the BJP seeks to marginalize the Muslim minority. of the country of more than 200 million people.

India has also faced significant allegations of extraterritorial excess, which raise questions about the risks of the country’s growing confidence, assertiveness — and commitment to international norms — under Modi.

The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau , said in September that his country was investigating “credible allegations” linking India to the murder of a Canadian citizen and prominent Sikh leader. New Delhi responded fiercely, accusing Canada of harboring terrorists and failing to act against extremists, despite denying the North American country’s accusation.

Two months later, US prosecutors also alleged that an Indian agent was behind a foiled contract murder plot against a Sikh American activist. New Delhi has denied any involvement in this alleged plot and created a high-level committee to investigate the accusation.

A changed India?

One factor to watch after Modi’s resounding election victory, experts say, is whether the new government will intensify or soften the stance affecting India’s relations with its South Asian neighbors.

Experts point to how Hindu nationalism over the past decade has not only fueled division and violence within the country, but also threatened to inflame friction in the region, especially with Pakistan — often the target of heated rhetoric from the BJP.

Now, Modi’s BJP will have to respond to the interests of its coalition allies — and face tighter control from a resurgent opposition, which could dampen its Hindu nationalist agenda. And analysts stress that it will take time to see how the BJP will calibrate policy objectives and its response based on this new political reality.

“If it is a normal policy, we will see that the elbows will not be so sharp on several issues”, pointed out Sushant Singh, professor at Yale University, in the USA. “But to cater to its nationalist support base, (the BJP) may actually go the other way,” to heighten the rhetoric, he added. “We will have to see what political decision is made.”

Such a reaction could also be driven by the BJP’s relative weak position this term, experts say, noting that Modi’s landslide victory in the 2019 elections followed a rise in tensions with Pakistan.

India later claimed to have launched airstrikes on what it said was a “terrorist training camp” along its border with Pakistan, after a car bomb killed Indian paramilitary forces in an incident disputed by Islamabad.

The BJP uses the “asymmetry of Pakistan’s image to rally its core Hindutva base”, ponders Fahd Humayun, assistant professor of Political Science at Tufts University in the US, referring to the ruling party’s ideology that India is inherently a land for Hindus.

“To that end, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which, with its back against the wall, an embattled Modi government reinforces perceptions of external threats to try to rally domestic voters.”

In his weakened position, Modi may also be pressured to respond assertively to any perceived threats from China.

Modi appears unwilling to risk a confrontation with India’s militarily superior neighbor, despite being criticized for what they see as a “soft” response to 2020’s deadly clashes along the disputed Himalayan border.

Governments and political decision-makers around the world will be watching developments on these issues in the coming months.

However, some experts suggest that while the election results may not have boosted Modi, they are already a boon for India’s global influence.

“If he had obtained a (super)majority and promoted the Hindu agenda, it would probably have harmed India’s international agenda,” analyzed Paul, the author, who is also a professor at McGill University in Canada.

Paul said that democracy was “the greatest tradition of soft power of India” and that its apparent resurgence in the elections could improve the country’s image among liberal nations.

“India’s return as a proper democracy is good for the world order in many ways,” he added. But “it all depends on how Modi plays this game.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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