No doubt you’ve heard about the blossoming friendship between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and president-elect Donald Trump. One international soon-to-be BFF you haven’t been hearing about is India’s xenophobic Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi and Trump have a lot in common. They both really hate Muslims. They both want to crack down on a neighboring country. They both say they’re great for the economy and run government like a business.
An important thing to know about Modi: many believe he’s responsible for the slaughter of more than 2,000 Muslims in 2002. An investigation commissioned by the Indian Supreme Court found there wasn’t enough evidence to move the case against him forward, but the U.S. wouldn’t issue him a visa due to his involvement in the Gujarat riots—at least not until he was elected Prime Minister).
Modi is a Hindu nationalist, which isn’t that much different from white supremacy in the U.S. Here’s the basic ideology: India is a Hindu country. Everyone else must assimilate to Hindu culture. Muslims are bad and trying to take over our country. In India, that ideology is enshrined in Modi’s political party (the BJP) while in the U.S. that kind of overt racism was unacceptable in political discourse until recently. While Modi’s rise to power and the ideology of his party is troubling, it’s worth noting that a secular party (the Indian National Congress) has dominated Indian politics since the country’s independence from Britain.
The upshot: Trump’s rise bad for Muslims in India. Due to concerns about reversing India’s tradition of secular government, Modi largely kept his campaign rhetoric secular and focused on a message of good government and economic growth. Not surprisingly, his rise to power has hurt Muslims, but Trump’s win could embolden Modi and his party to adopt more anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies with less fear of repercussions from the international community.
With this context, one particular campaign ad from Trump was especially chilling for its distinctly anti-Muslim undertones.
On a related note, the Times of India is reporting Trump’s advisor Shalabh Kumar says the president-elect plans to sign legislation declaring Pakistan a terrorism state—something Modi will be thrilled to hear from his new BFF. (You can read about the complicated geopolitical implications and debate about designating Pakistan a terrorism state here).