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Trump’s free pass to Modi on home agenda: Shivshankar Menon

NEW DELHI: Former national security adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon has alleged that US President Donald Trump has given “the Modi government a free pass on its controversial domestic agenda” and that this has drawn sharp reactions from the Democrats, threatening the bipartisanship consensus in the US on strengthening ties with India.

In an article written in American magazine Foreign Affairs ahead of the US presidential election, Menon wrote, “Under Modi, India has excluded Muslim immigrants from the path to citizenship and limited the autonomy of the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir region. Uninterested in human rights and democracy, Trump has given the Modi government a free pass on its controversial domestic agenda.”

The article, titled ‘How Trump and Modi Refashioned the U.S.-Indian Relationship’, is the sharpest critique yet of India-US ties under the Modi government by Menon, who served as the NSA under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

However, Menon also referred to Indo-American convergence vis-a-vis China. “Looming above everything, of course, is China. Whether because of a belief that its time has come or a result of internal stress, China has grown markedly more assertive over the past decade, and even in the past year…India and the United States share a broad view of the challenge that China poses,” he wrote in the influential foreign policy publication. “They also agree on the specifics of what to do about it in the vast expanse of ocean stretching from the east coast of Africa to the west coast of the US, a region that both now call ‘the Indo-Pacific’.”

Menon went on to claim that it has largely been the Democrats, including Indian American members of Congress, such as Pramila Jayapal of Washington State and Ro Khanna of California, who have expressed public disquiet about some of Modi’s domestic policies. “The bipartisan consensus in the United States on strengthening ties with India is in danger,” the former NSA alleged.

The real narrowing has been in the mind, with both sides now conceiving of the relationship in transactional, rather than principled, terms, according to Menon. “Trump’s disdain for world order, international institutions, and multilateral cooperation has been met with a shrug by Modi’s government. Neither side seems to have a long-term strategic vision for the relationship…” Menon wrote.

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