Where was PM Modi trained?
India's innovator shines abroad
One year after the change of power, India is not a new country. The government of Modi, celebrated as an economic reformer and feared as a nationalist demagogue, has left its mark.
Modi's first success was an atmospheric one. Hardly any change of power in independent India has so far been linked with such expectations as Narendra Modi's inauguration a year ago. The prospect of an election victory for its business-friendly Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had already put India's entrepreneurship in a euphoric mood. Modi, who, as head of government in Gujarat, had brought the state into shape economically, aroused the hope of finally using the potential dormant in the country. The stock exchange prices rose steadily from January 2014, in March of this year the leading index Sensex reached an all-time high of over 30,000 points, an increase of 50 percent in 15 months.
Airy major campaigns
In the meantime one has returned to the ground of reality. Overnight, the gigantic country with its downright burlesque bureaucracy, ailing infrastructure and largely poorly educated population has not become a paradise for investors. This, a rising oil price and the emergence of alternative investment opportunities have resulted in a withdrawal of funds and a correction in the stock market. It was inevitable that disillusionment would spread. The expectations were too unrealistic.
Modi had deliberately fueled this himself, in the election campaign carried out under the slogan “Good days will come” and afterwards. The first months of his reign were marked by the announcements of promising large-scale campaigns: On Gandhi's 150th birthday in 2019, India will be a clean country, until 2022 100 so-called “smart cities” will defy the challenges of urbanization; India »100 million additional industrial jobs created. The media-savvy power politician Modi staged himself skilfully at the respective launch, for example at the press conference with a broom in his hand among street sweepers. But there was no substance.
Nevertheless, the government has achieved a lot in terms of financial and economic policy. Foreign investments have been made easier in some sectors, the tax system has been simplified, and important investments in infrastructure have been discussed. The budget is in balance, inflation is under control, and growth is robust. Business circles, of course, can neither go fast nor far enough. But it's not just the government's fault.
It is true that in India, for the first time in decades, a party again has an absolute majority in the lower house. But important legislative proposals also have to pass the House of Lords, which is occupied by representatives of the member states. There the BJP is still in the minority. This is one of the reasons why Modi is personally involved in all elections at the state level. In order to be immune from the opposition's blockade strategy - which the current ruling party persecuted just as ruthlessly before the change in power - the BJP will have to win a few more large states in the next few months after its successes in Haryana and Maharashtra. The heavy defeat in the regional elections in Delhi put a damper on Modi's triumphant advance for the time being.
Ultranationalists on the rise
In the election campaign, the Hindu nationalists always count on support from the far right. It is difficult to determine what weight Modi, whose role in the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat 2002 was never fully clarified, and his closest confidante the Hindutva, the ideology of right-wing national circles aimed at the Hinduization of India. It is undisputed, however, that the government hardly counteracts obvious calls for a break with the secular tradition of the multiethnic state.
The abolition of the teaching of modern foreign languages in favor of Sanskrit at some state schools or the successful lobbying at the UN for an international yoga day are of course harmless episodes, but the ban on beef consumption after the change of power in Maharashtra is less so because of the indirect anti-minority effects . The foundations of peaceful coexistence between religious communities are rightly shaken, however, when, as in Delhi, a minister publicly describes all non-Hindus in a play on words as bastards and this only provokes late and abundant arid opposition from the head of government.
In addition, Modi does not present himself as a flawless democrat, civil society feels this particularly. Maneuvering the media as in Gujarat is less possible at the national level, but many Indian journalists in Delhi also complain that, after critical reports, access to the power elite is practically closed. For foreign reporters, the annual visa renewal has become even more of a run with a hundred obstacles.
The vibrant NGO scene in India has also come under pressure. Non-governmental organizations financed from abroad in particular are under general suspicion. It is true that the environmental protection organization Greenpeace had no stone in the board with the previous government because of its criticism of the state's energy policy. Under Modi, however, she is threatened with the withdrawal of her license for international financing and thus ultimately with closure. The latest crackdown on the Ford Foundation in India, which in the past supported organizations that dealt with coming to terms with the pogroms in Gujarat, does not shed a good light on the government.
Brisk travel activity
The downside of the new government course has so far only been marginally registered abroad, even if the American ambassador recently expressed criticism of Indian NGO policy. In principle, Modi is welcomed with open arms around the world, and cooperation with one of the few remaining growth markets is too tempting. However, the prime minister, who loves to travel, also displayed impressive foreign policy dynamics in his first year in office. He visited 18 countries in the first 12 months, with 6 more to follow in July.
The greatest success is likely to be the straightening out of the relationship with the USA. After the pogroms in Gujarat, Modi was considered persona non grata in Washington, and the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York because of the irregular employment of her domestic help had smashed a lot of dishes. In October, Modi was received with all honors in the USA. In return, Barack Obama was the first American President to take part as a guest of honor on the national holiday in Delhi. The oldest and largest democracy in the world, as the tandem likes to call itself, see themselves as geopolitical allies in Asia. However, this has not yet dampened the traditionally close Indian relationship with Russia.
With his neighborhood policy, Modi has reached out to the small neighboring countries. An overdue border agreement was signed with Bangladesh, and the change of power in Colombo helped restart relations with Sri Lanka. The aim is always to push back China's influence, which wants to secure its trade routes to the west in Central Asia and the Indian Ocean. Of course, Delhi does not have the same resources as the Middle Kingdom, but at least, so it is said among Indian strategists, Delhi is finally also dealing with questions of a strategic nature in Indian foreign policy.
Modi wants to strengthen the position of his country and knows how to use the newly awakened interest in India. Trade contracts, for example in the armaments sector, are often tied to the condition that production facilities are set up in India in return. What he has in mind in terms of domestic and social policy, in addition to the creation of favorable economic framework conditions, remains largely in the dark. Alienation of the minorities endangers any development in the huge heterogeneous country. The next few years will show whether Modi's government is up to this challenge.
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