By: Suraj Shah Edited by: Shane Masterson August 30, 2023
From June 21 to June 23, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the United States to discuss international relations between the two countries, address the Indian American diaspora, and most importantly, speak to a joint-session of Congress. It is important to contextualize this event to understand why this was so significant. In 2005, Modi was denied a visa for “severe violations of religious freedom” when he allegedly failed to quell the 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat (to clarify, the Supreme Court of India found Modi innocent of any responsibility for the riots). This ban effectively stopped Modi from entering the United States for a decade, and many claim that this action humiliated India on the world stage. Only once Modi was elected Prime Minister in 2014 did President Barack Obama issue him a visa, with a congressional report saying Modi would qualify for a visa if he became leader. In other words, the American government reluctantly issued a visa to Modi.
Recently, Obama has criticized India’s treatment of Muslims. Several progressive leaders in Congress including Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Ihan Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Cori Bush denounced the recent visit and pledged to boycott Modi’s address. However, proponents of Modi’s government explain that he has made significant progress for India’s Muslims. For example, he abolished the triple talaq law (which allowed Muslim men to legally divorce their wives by simply pronouncing “talaq” three times), andh is administration was instrumental in allowing women to go on the hajj pilgrimage without a male blood relative accompanying them.
From this context, readers may realize the impact of Modi’s visit. Several successes arose from the meetings. President Biden pledged to support India’s increasing manufacturing of electric vehicles and renewable energy development in an effort to show that both countries had serious ambitions concerning climate change. U.S. memory chip firm Miron Technology plans to invest up to $825 million in a new chip assembly factory in Gujarat. Symbolically, Modi’s visit to the United States represented increased collaboration to combat the rise of dictatorial China.
Vikram Solar Limited, an Indian solar panel manufacturer, will invest $1.5 billion in new U.S. solar energy factories in an effort to compete with China to build a clean energy industry. Modi’s India will also join the Artemis Accords, an American initiative to increase international cooperation in space exploration of celestial bodies. Despite the fact that the U.S. does not plan on removing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, India plans to eliminate its retaliatory tariffs it levied on several American products such as chickpeas and apples.
Militarily, Modi and Biden achieved large wins for their respective countries. Hindustan Aeronautics and General Electric signed a memorandum of understanding that the former will generate fighter jets for the Indian Air Force. India approved purchase of several Predator drones developed by General Atomics. Modi and Biden secured joint research agreements, defense industrial cooperation, and agreement to build energy minerals supply chains.
Overall, Modi’s visit to the United States seemed to be a success. Strategic developments in both countries were achieved, and the important partnership between the two countries was strengthened. As the prime minister pointed out in his address to Congress, “In the past few years, there have been many advances in AI - artificial intelligence. At the same time, there have been even more momentous developments in another AI - America and India.”