June 19, 2014: The first thirty days after Narendra Modi’s swearing-in as Indian prime minister set a breathtaking pace. The new government – and Modi personally –dominated the news and the action agenda. The strong centralization and detailed emphasis on economic revitalization were expected; the burst of high profile foreign policy initiatives was not. A month is a short time for drawing sweeping conclusions, but so far, Modi has been remarkably successful in creating excitement about his initiatives, and an air of inevitability about his determination to follow through. His challenge will be to maintain focus and discipline in his exuberant party, and to deal with soaring expectations.
May 16, 2014: The “Modi wave” in the just-completed Indian elections was bigger than almost all the projections. Based on final results in almost all constituencies, Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will have 282 seats, enough to form a single-party government if it chooses. The National Democratic Alliance, the BJP and its pre-election allies, will control 336 seats. This result dwarfs any winning majority in the past thirty years. The U.S. is optimistic about the outlook. Now more than ever, India-U.S. relations need high level attention.
February 10, 2014: Delhi is completely absorbed by two elections – December’s surprise win at the state level by the upstart Aam Aadmi Party, and the national polls due in April. Congress is down; the BJP is up; the Aam Aadmi (“Common Man”) Party is a potential national wild card. Most observers expect a BJP-led coalition headed by Narendra Modi to form the next government, but some forecasts anticipate a coalition of regional parties, probably with Congress support but not participation. What this means for policy is not altogether clear. A Modi government would surely emphasize economic growth and an assertive foreign policy, but the specifics would depend in part on the scale of their victory. A “third force” coalition would in all likelihood be quite inward-looking.
December 9, 2013: In the tremendous buzz that has attended Narendra Modi’s emergence as the BJP’s candidate for prime minister in India’s 2014 elections, foreign policy has been almost entirely absent. Modi’s rare foreign policy statements suggest that his approach will center on economics, India’s cultural heritage, and a tough regional policy. It’s too early to tell what this is likely to mean in practice.
For the United States, a Modi victory would bring pluses and minuses in terms of his policies. But regardless of the outcome of the national election, the U.S. cannot afford to continue restricting its contacts with a politician of Modi’s importance to a relatively low level.
September 20, 2013: Two decades of rapid economic growth and surging international trade gave India the economic and strategic heft to go with its world-wide vision and voice. The current slump threatens to bring back the lowest economic numbers in twenty years. This sagging performance will burden both India’s domestic politics and its global strategic goals. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington will provide some short term relief, but all India’s contenders for political power need to be thinking about how to get India’s economy humming again.