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  • Eric Speer

India's Laundry List of Problems

Since China has become the target of 100% of much of the United States foreign policy community's ire, there have been a many articles written by highly esteemed scholars that essentially argue that the United States should make India a central part of its strategy to contain China in the Indo-Pacific. These articles usually tout India's high rate of economic growth, enormous population, democratic credentials, and its ongoing effort to beef up its military - particularly its navy. India, however, should not only not be considered an essential part of the US strategy in Asia, it should be viewed as one of the countries with the most potential to destabilize South and East Asia in terms of security and to condemn the entirety of humanity to living in a planet that will be unable to stop or even mitigate the catastrophic effects of climate change. India's problems include the religious fanaticism and authoritarianism of Prime Minister Modi, the increasingly unstable security situation in Kashmir and with its neighbor Pakistan, and the wildly irresponsible climate policies that could unleash waves of human migration that the surrounding region will be unable to deal with.

Modi's Hindu nationalist worldview and utter disdain for India's muslim populations has put India's founding legacy as a secular democracy seriously at risk. He has a long history of whipping his supporters into anti-Muslim frenzies that have resulted in the deaths of many Indian citizens. He has championed the causes of far-right Hindus like the building of a Hindu temple on a site where nationalists had destroyed a mosque that dated back to the Mughal era in Indian history. More recently he has also introduced an extremely controversial citizenship bill in the state of Assam that threatens to revoke the citizenship status of more than 2 million Indian Muslims. Modi's government is forcing Indian's in Assam to provide papers to authorities that prove that they are residing in India lawfully. However, many of the Muslims that currently live in Assam fled from Bangladesh during its civil war with Pakistan and were not issued any kind of official documentation upon reaching Indian territory. Due to India's previous emphasis on official secularism in government there was no basis for these people to be kicked out of the country that they have called home since they initially fled war and destruction. Modi has upended their status now and condemned them to a life of statelessness by asking them to prove their residency with papers that he knows full well that they do not have. Ominously, there has been construction of camps similar to the ones being used to hold other stateless people like the Rohingya who have fled persecution in Bangladesh.

At the same time, Modi has been cracking down on the only majority Muslim state in India - Jammu and Kashmir - by revoking its special status that it was given when the Indian constitution was developed following its independence from the British empire. Modi's government has now been ruling over the Muslim state through martial law, locking up prominent Muslim politicians, shutting down the internet, and forbidding access to the state to foreign journalists who have an interest in giving the world an independent perspective of how Kashmiris are being treated. Modi made this decision knowing that it would inflame relations with Pakistan and increase the likelihood of terror attacks by Kashmiri militants that would in turn justify a further crackdown. This has made the security situation in South Asia much worse, as Pakistan's support for Kashmiri militants will raise the prospects of a conflict ensuing between two nationalistic, nuclear armed states.

Finally, as I have written about before, India's continued reliance on coal-fired power plants to provide electricity to a huge percentage of its citizens has resulted in levels of air pollution around the country that are staggering. In addition to air pollution, the burning of coal has caused temperatures in areas of India to become dangerously high during the summer months - to the point that soon people will be unable to inhabit them. Combine the dangerous levels of air pollution and high temperatures and you have a recipe for a potentially historic level of people migrating out of India in search of more hospitable areas to live. Many countries that surround India, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Myanmar, are already struggling to provide government services for the citizens that live there and would be unable/unwilling to accept huge waves of refugees from a country with more than one billion people inside of it. These outward migration flows have the potential to completely destabilize the region and Modi's focus on maintaining high levels of economic growth at all costs will require India to continue relying on coal for the vast majority of its energy needs.

For all of these reasons, I find it ridiculous that there are many people within the United States government and foreign policy community that advocate India as an indispensable nation for the United States to partner with. In reality it is a ticking time bomb run by a fanatic who is condemning huge numbers of Indians to stateless status and pushing the country towards environmental ruin by his narrow focus on economic growth. India must be pushed to reverse these policies if it wants the support of the United States going forward in dealing with its regional rivals Pakistan and China.


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