March 24, 2023

Hardwood Paroxysm

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The United States does not like a pro-Putin China, and the race for India begins: from Meloni to Schultz to Blinken, all in Modi’s court

Everyone in India is passionate about it. In recent days German Chancellor Olaf Schultz, in the coming days (among others) US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. India has long been identified as a strategic partner by the West. From a commercial point of view, it provides an alternative outlet for countries committed to diversifying relationships in Asia with respect to the Chinese market. From this point of view, India is on the rise, also taking into account the demographic boom that will lead it this year to historically overtake China as the most populous country in the world. From a strategic point of view, given that the United States has identified New Delhi as one of the pillars of its strategy to “contain” Beijing.
Meloni will be in New Delhi on Thursday, March 2 to participate in the Resina Dialogue, the major conference on security and geopolitics held annually on Indian soil. She will be the chief guest of the event, on the sidelines of which she will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Indian press described the visit as the decisive step in clearing “a decade of frost” caused by tensions over the arrest of the two soldiers and the entire legal and diplomatic affair that followed. According to The Hindu, a cooperation agreement in the defense sector will be discussed, with the signing which may then arrive next September when Meloni returns to India to attend the G20 summit.
Instead, Scholz met Modi last Saturday, promising to commit to signing a free trade agreement between the European Union and India by the end of 2023. Blinken will take part in the G20 summit, where he will try to create a groove with Russia and be more decisive. Attitude to the war in Ukraine. New Delhi, like Beijing, has never condemned the invasion ordered by Vladimir Putin. Without the political and rhetorical support that Xi Jinping guarantees, the Modi government has provided the Kremlin with economic support by dramatically increasing oil and gas imports. Not to mention the historical relationship between India and Russia on the military level.
One of many events that Washington and the West seem willing to turn a blind eye to. Domestically, in fact, India under Modi has seen a gradual deterioration of rights. Just think of what happened in recent weeks, with the censorship of the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question”. The Indian government called the film “trash”: students who staged public screenings to circumvent the ban were targeted by universities, police and pro-government student groups.
In the aftermath of the lawsuit, the BBC’s offices in India were repeatedly raided by Indian authorities on charges of tax evasion. Some documents, computers and journalists’ phones were confiscated. It’s hard not to tie the story to the documentary, which is “mistaken” in recounting the role Modi played in the massacre of Gujarat, the western Indian state he ruled when a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire in 2002. The perpetrators were identified in a crowd From the Muslim minority, which later became the target of a violent and bloody reprisal that caused the death of a thousand officials, but about 2,500 according to estimates by activists and NGOs. Modi was later acquitted by an investigation against him, but he tapped into Hindu extremist tones to achieve the rise that led him to becoming prime minister in 2014.
Since coming to power, Modi has restricted the rights of minorities, especially the Muslim one. Among the most controversial moves are the abolition of autonomy for Kashmir (India’s only Muslim-majority state) and a new citizenship law. Press freedom collapsed: In 2022, New Delhi collapsed to 150th out of 180, its worst position ever. It didn’t help Gautam Adani’s takeover of Ndtv, one of the last remaining with a critical attitude towards Modi. Yes, exactly the billionaire who has been very close to the Chief Minister since his days in Gujarat and who has recently run into trouble because of a US think tank Hindenburg Fund report on his conglomerate Adani Group. A massive conglomerate that allegedly carried out “blatant stock price manipulation” and “decades of falsifying financial statements”. The accusations led to the burning of tens of billions of capital, as Adani and the government itself gave credence to the narrative that it was “a foreign attack on the whole of India to hinder its rise.”
It is unlikely that the situation will improve in the near future. Elections are held in 2024 and Modi is looking for a third term. The opposition tries to rally around Rahul Gandhi but is almost invisible in the Indian media. While Modi appears set to spend a year in the spotlight between the G20 presidency and high-level international meetings. With lots of hands to shake.

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