go to top
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses supporters at Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters, New Delhi, India. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses supporters at Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters, New Delhi, India, May 23, 2019 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

Can Modi Steer India Back to Relevance?

Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s overwhelming victory in India’s elections in May 2019 solidified his grip on power and ensured that he will set the country’s agenda for the foreseeable future. While the vote was technically a victory for his right-wing, nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, Modi turned it into a referendum on himself, becoming the face of nearly every BJP candidate’s local campaign. Modi played up his strongman persona on the campaign trail, particularly with regard to Pakistan, with which India had traded tit-for-tat airstrikes over Kashmir just months before the elections.

After the landslide victory, critics wondered whether Modi would double down on the Hindu nationalism and illiberalism that characterized his first term in office, or rein it in. In the months since then, the answer has become clearly the former. In August, Modi revoked Kashmir’s semiautonomous status and imposed a media and internet blackout on the state. Later that month, the state of Assam published the results of a citizenship census, the National Register of Citizens, that was ostensibly meant to formally register the citizenship status of local residents, but which critics claimed was a backhanded effort to strip Muslim migrants from neighboring Bangladesh, and their descendants, of Indian citizenship. When the register was finally published, 1.9 million people—many but not all of them Muslims—were ultimately excluded.* In December, in part to provide an avenue to citzenship for Hindus who had been excluded from the list, the government passed an immigration law that would confer fast-track citizenship on non-Muslim migrants from three neighboring Muslim-majority countries, including Bangladesh, sparking weeks of domestic protests and some diplomatic fallout.

Meanwhile, Modi’s administration faces foreign policy challenges besides Pakistan, including regional competition for influence with China and, more recently, the possibility of a trade war with the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed that India is unfairly limiting American manufacturers from access to its markets. Tensions seemed to have cooled following several meetings between Modi and Trump, but the two sides have not arrived at a resolution, and New Delhi remains sensitive to the public perception that Washington is bullying it into submission.

WPR has covered India in detail and continues to examine key questions about what will happen next. Will Modi’s personal camaraderie with Trump be enough to hold off a trade war with the United States? Will Modi’s government continue to look the other way on Hindu nationalist violence? Will Modi be successful in spurring economic development in his second term? Below are some of the highlights of WPR’s coverage.

Our Most Recent Coverage

Modi’s Hindu Nationalist Agenda Dims His Star in India and Beyond

India’s controversial new Citizenship Amendment Act has sparked domestic unrest as well as international outrage that has reverberated beyond South Asia. Less than a year after winning a landslide reelection, Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi suddenly finds his global reputation stained.

World Politics Review

Special introductory, limited-time offer: 12 weeks for just $12! Act now to take advantage of this special offer.

Get unlimited access to must-read news, analysis and opinion from top experts.

Subscribe to World Politics Review and you'll receive instant access to 10,000+ articles in the World Politics Review Library, along with new comprehensive analysis every weekday . . . written by leading topic experts.

Domestic Politics

While Modi and his party have taken steps not to explicitly endorse a "Hindu first" agenda, it is clear where his sympathies lie. And there is evidence that the hard-line paramilitary organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is driving recruitment for the BJP. The opposition has tried to draw attention to their concerns that Modi detracts from legitimate issues with his nationalist appeals, but Modi’s BJP was still able to secure an outright majority for the second time in a row in India, an almost unprecedented feat in modern Indian politics.

Global Relations

Under Modi, New Delhi has moved to become a more important player in the region, working to strengthen relations throughout Southeast and East Asia. India is also part of a revived trilateral grouping with China and Russia that presents itself as a balance to American influence. But relations between New Delhi and Beijing are characterized by an uneasy mix of cooperation and rivalry, underscored by periodic tensions over unresolved border disputes. As a result, the U.S. is still a key partner for India, as the lingering trade concerns highlight.

Kashmir and the Conflict With Pakistan

The long-simmering tensions between India and Pakistan threatened to boil over in early 2019, when a Pakistani-based terrorist group killed 40 Indian paramilitary personnel in the disputed Kashmir region. Weeks later, Modi sent his response in the form of an air attack on a terrorist training camp, although questions persist about just how effective this strike actually was. Though the situation eventually calmed, Modi later revoked Kashmir’s autonomous status, once again raising tensions with Islamabad.

But this is just a fraction of what you’ll get in WPR’s searchable library of content, where you’ll find over 10,000 articles on topics such as international diplomacy, the global refugee crisis, global finance, economic trends, gender equality, water rights, and so much more!

And the World Politics Review library is searchable by author, region, and issue, so you can find specific topics quickly and easily!

An All-Access subscription to World Politics Review will allow you to:

  • Prepare your business, organization, or institution to stay ahead of the curve by better understanding critical global trends as they emerge and develop.
  • Be first to know how to act upon world events and emerging trends, with our uncompromising analysis and recommendations.
  • Save time following the most important international news and events by reading digested and curated content from the expert editors at World Politics Review.
  • Stay up to date on emerging events and trends so you can take advantage of opportunities for investment, and insulate your business from political pitfalls.
  • Speak confidently to anyone—whether at a work meeting or a cocktail party—about global events and trends, with a perspective that’s intelligent, informed, probing, analytical, and—frankly—quite impressive!

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 10,000+ articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors.
  • Weekly in-depth reports, including features and country- and region-specific reports.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • PDF versions of all articles for easy offline reading, at your leisure.

And all of this is available to you —right now—with a subscription to World Politics Review.

That’s right: you’ll get immediate access to all of our uncompromising global-trend analysis that delivers actionable advice for policymakers, analysts, business strategists, academics, influencers, and thought leaders who have a deep interest in international affairs.

World Politics Review

Special introductory, limited-time offer: 12 weeks for just $12! Act now to take advantage of this special offer.

Get unlimited access to must-read news, analysis and opinion from top experts.

Subscribe to World Politics Review and you'll receive instant access to 10,000+ articles in the World Politics Review Library, along with new comprehensive analysis every weekday . . . written by leading topic experts.

Why not join us right now? Thousands of others already have.

World Politics Review (WPR) is produced by a vast network of leading experts and influential observers on the ground; our substantive content gives you access to comprehensive and detailed perspectives that are as valuable as they are unique and rare.

Though strictly nonpartisan with regard to political-party affiliation or allegiance, WPR relies on a reality-based approach that recognizes the need for all the tools and instruments of statecraft—with a preference for diplomacy and multilateralism in support of a rules- and norms-based global order.

WPR’s mission is simple—we’re committed to integrity, quality, and the principles of an intellectually honest press whose exclusive purpose is to inform and educate its readers.

Why not join us today and benefit from all the valuable insights you can’t get anywhere else?

World Politics Review

Special introductory, limited-time offer: 12 weeks for just $12! Act now to take advantage of this special offer.

Get unlimited access to must-read news, analysis and opinion from top experts.

Subscribe to World Politics Review and you'll receive instant access to 10,000+ articles in the World Politics Review Library, along with new comprehensive analysis every weekday . . . written by leading topic experts.

*Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2019 and is regularly updated. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that 1.9 million Muslims had been excluded from Assam state's National Register of Citizens. WPR regrets the error.

What are your thoughts about India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi? We would like to hear them. Comment below.