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India's "Trump" Wins Big
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How fleeting is glory! Back in 1998, the South Asian Journalists Association proclaimed me ‘Journalist of the Year’ for a newspaper article I had written about India.

But the next year the award was angrily rescinded after I wrote that India should compromise with Pakistan over the festering Kashmir conflict. Prickly Indians didn’t like being criticized, even by an old friend like myself.

This week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition won a landslide electoral victory, gaining 302 of the 542 seats in parliament. The venerable Congress opposition party, that long led India, was crushed.

We should pay attention. India is more or less the world’s largest democracy and is expected to be the third largest economic power by 2020. It’s also an important nuclear state with land and sea-launched ICBM’s that can strike the United States and Canada, Europe, and its rival, China.

I’ve been writing for decades about the threat of accidental or planned nuclear war with Pakistan over Kashmir. My first book, ‘War at the Top of the World,’ deals with the potential of future war between India and China over the high Himalayas and Burma, as well as India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

India, energized by growing economic power and nuclear Viagra is feeling its national oats. Prime Minister Modi is a hard-line religious nationalist determined to press his concept of ‘Hindutva,’ or religious power. He has vowed to confront India’s largest minority, some 200 million Muslims, 15% of its estimated 1.3 billion people, and make India a great Hindu power again.

Modi has sometimes been called ‘India’s Trump.’ He was governor of India’s most business-oriented state, Gujarat. Modi is openly antagonistic to Muslims and Sikhs, and failed to halt the massacre of thousands of Muslims during his tenure. He commands wide public support for his Muslim-bashing and anti-Pakistan invective. Modi likes to wave the scimitar and vaunt his military muscle.

Last February, he sent Indian warplanes to attack Pakistan after Kashmir nationalists (‘terrorists’ to Indians) attacked an Indian military convoy. India humiliatingly lost one of its MiG’s to Pakistan’s crack air force. Worse, Modi ran a very dangerous and totally unnecessary risk by attacking nuclear-armed Pakistan. But Hindu nationalist mobs loved it. Just as many ill-informed Americans love Trump’s war threats against Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and, of course, Russia.

Like Trump, Modi keeps invoking India’s past without really addressing its current problems like entrenched cast problems, growing crime, terrible national sanitation, rampant corruption, lethal air pollution and endemic communal tensions. Interestingly, in the recent elections, a majority of low cast ‘untouchables’ (now called ‘Dalits’ but still as untouchable) voted for the BJP. So did India’s always restive eastern hills states. These are positive signs for Modi’s BJP.


By contrast, the Congress Party that brought India to independence from British colonial rule in 1947 and gave it the elite Gandhi ruling dynasty, was crushed in the vote. Dynastic politics is always bad medicine, be it Gandhis, Kennedys, Bhuttos or Romanovs. The youthful but disappointing heir to the Gandhi’s Congress political machine, Rahul Gandhi, had no heart in the fight and even lost one of his two ‘safe’ seats.

That’s too bad. Congress has a fairly moderate policy towards Muslims and Pakistan. Not so the BJP which remains based on an extreme Hindu movement founded in 1925 that promotes grassroots Hinduisation of the nation, or even expulsion of Muslims, as just occurred in Buddhist Burma (Myanmar). Many on the Hindu hard right also call for the ‘reabsorption’ of Pakistan into Mother India, though, confusingly, that would add 213 million angry Muslims.

Meanwhile, India’s formerly stagnant economy is bustling, thanks in good part to lifting of punitive tax and absurd government restrictions known as the ‘license Raj.’ Foreign investment is pouring into India, and highly educated Indian immigrants into the United States. Back in the early 1990’s, I was given a early look at India’s just formed version of Silicon Valley, the city of Bangalore, (home of the ‘bangalore torpedo’ for breaching barbed wire.) This complex grew into today’s IT powerhouse, the pride of India.

India is on a roll. Now, even more so thanks to a strong central government that favors commerce and big business. But it’s not all sitar music and incense. India is a modern nation of 600 million atop an ancient rural nation of 700 million. Modern India will struggle to escape ancient Mother India. The Indian colossus still has political and financial feet of clay.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: India, Narendra Modi 
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  1. Alistair says:

    Democracy is a learning process with the ultimate goal of raising the collective consciousness of the majority to respect the minorities rights.

    India is certainly on the right path; yet, the risk arises when “the wan a be democracy” is an nuclear armed state that can evaporate the entire planet in few minutes – should the rest of the world trust India with such lethal weapons ???

    India’s history has clearly proven otherwise; because the core values of hinduism have been practically promoting “the Caste System” in Indian society which had essentially formalized the ” Class Based Discriminations”, over the past several hundred generations; that means a group of people are being destined to be part of the lower caste from birth to death, generation after generation to perpetuity – the residual of such twisted core values are still persistent amongst the modern Indian society even today.

    As such, it appears that Hindus Collective Consciousness is comfortable to have the sub-classes in their society which they have been exploiting ruthlessly for generations – so condoning the perpetual cycle of poverty and misery for a large minority segments of population amongst themselves which is being perpetuated from one generation to the next throughout India’s history.

    So. how mature is the Indian democracy today, should the world trust India with its nuclear weapons ???

    • Replies: @Exile
    , @KA
  2. Exile says:

    Democracy is a learning process with the ultimate goal of raising the collective consciousness of the majority to respect the minorities rights.

    Only in the fantasies of WEIRD neo-liberals. Democracy is majority rule, period. India (and Southwest Asia in general) is much more authentically democratic than the uniquely WEIRD forms of parliamentary representative republicanism whose governments are (theoretically) restrained by WEIRD concepts of human and minority rights.

    The inertia of centuries of British rule keeps outwardly-Commonwealth institutions standing for now, but human nature will have its course over time. WEIRD forms of governance are a poor fit for Southwest Asian populations. Modi, for all his “deplorable” beliefs, better reflects his people. If WEIRD’s truly believed in democracy rather than their neo-liberal pseudo-religion of “Progress,” they would stop trying, like Fukiyama, to end history, and let these people determine their own.

    As for whether the world should “trust” India with its nuclear arsenal, what other choice does the world have? No country with nuclear weapons has ever been forcibly disarmed. They are first and foremost an insurance policy against “regime change.” How does one say “molon labe” in Hindi?

    • Replies: @Alistair
  3. Alistair says:

    I agree, Democracy is the Rule of Majority, no question on that, but a well informed majority with uncontaminated consciousness, that means no fake news, no fake narrative, influence peddling by special interest groups, etc. in other words, no collective brain washing.

    We all have been witnessing the BREXIT nightmare in the U.K. – where poorly informed people produced a fake majority that’s willing to cut its own fingers by its own hand – But a well informed majority will create a society where everyone thrives freely, so the humanity develops and the world grow in the right direction.

    As to the neo liberal idea; not so long ago the very ideal of Democracy itself was a WEIRD neo-liberal utopia, yet many nations have grown beyond that; they are thriving freely today, that includes India as well, because democracy is learning process not a destination; countries like India, South Africa, Chile, along with many other young democracies around the world are certainly on the right path.

    India can keep its nukes if that gives them some assurance, but nobody is going to invade India, at least there is no such ambition to date, but if the world really wants to DeNuke India, you can be assured, that can be done without force; there are so many better ways to achieve that; the military force isn’t one of them.

    I Agree, Democracy is the Rule of Majority, but a well informed majority free of influence peddling, Fake news or Fake narratives.

    • Replies: @animalogic
    , @Miro23
  4. Modi has sometimes been called ‘India’s Trump.’ He was governor of India’s most business-oriented state, Gujarat. Modi is openly antagonistic to Muslims and Sikhs, and failed to halt the massacre of thousands of Muslims during his tenure.

    Uh, so that ends any and all comparisons to Trump. What numbskull compared murderous Modi to Trump? Have they gotten mental illness care yet?

  5. KA says:

    RSS-BJP blames muslim for writing Manu Collection which relegated the indigenous to the permanent 4 th class citizenship. Tomorrow they will balme Muslim for killing themselves to malign Hindus and will assert Babri was destroyed by Muslim vandals wearing saffron .

    “In its renewed impetus to woo Dalits, various other castes and sub-castes, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has embarked on an ambitious exercise to re-write history.
    Emboldened by the BJP’s success in the Lok Sabha elections, the RSS has intensified its efforts to find and validate a common Hindu thread to unify all groups under one Hindu identity.

    Three top RSS leaders have sought to attribute the genesis of Dalits, tribals and many other groups to “Muslim invasion” in medieval times.

    They articulated these views in their forewords to three books, authored by BJP spokesman Vijay Sonkar Shastri and released by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently — “Hindu Charmakar Jati”, “Hindu Khatik Jati” and “Hindu Valmiki Jati”.

    The Sangh leaders claimed that these castes had come into existence due to atrocities by foreign invaders and did not exist in Hindu religion earlier.

    According to Bhaiyyaji Joshi, No.2 in RSS hierarchy, ‘shudras’ were never untouchables in Hindu scriptures. ‘Islamic atrocities’ during the medieval age resulted in the emergence of untouchables, Dalits and Indian Muslims.

    Joshi further elaborated, “To violate Hindu swabhiman (dignity) of Chanwarvanshiya Kshatriyas, foreign invaders from Arab, Muslim rulers and beef-eaters, forced them to do abominable works like killing cows, skinning them and throwing their carcasses in deserted places. Foreign invaders thus created a caste of charma-karma (dealing with skin) by giving such works as punishment to proud Hindu prisoners.”

    Another top RSS functionary, Suresh Soni, echoed the same: “Dalits had their genesis during Turks, Muslims and Mughal eras. Today’s castes like Valmikis, Sudarshan, Majhabi Sikhs and their 624 sub-castes came into being as a result of atrocities against Brahmins and Kshatriyas during Medieval or Islamic age,” he wrote.

    Krishna Gopal, Sah-sarkaryavah, RSS, went on to bolster the Sangh’s new found agenda saying, “In pre-historic and Vedic age, Khatik castes have been recognized as Brahmins who affected sacrifices. It may be noted that before the advent of Muslim invaders, there is no reference to rearing pigs in India.

    It was a vocation adopted by Hindus to defend their religion.”

    The RSS has been focusing on research in this area of late. One of its affiliated organisations had recently organised a conclave of over 100 historians to discuss historiography and changes required to give a proper perspective.

    An overarching Hindu identity beyond any castes or sub-castes is an objective that the RSS has been striving for decades, despite being projected as an upper caste outfit. The BJP itself, under the stewardship of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, has been actively reaching out to Dalits and OBCs. The Sangh’s latest move looks set to re-ignite a debate on history and historians.

    • Replies: @anon
    , @Digital Samizdat
    , @Lin
  6. anon[464] • Disclaimer says:

    One is forced to wonder if the demise of Buddhism from India was also the result of the same process that India sees today against Muslim .

    It is was possibly
    engineered by rewriting of history, demonization of Buddha , Ashoka , Buddhist population and by creating a temporary alliances of convenience with ‘ stupid ‘ low caste through the polemic rhetorics and falsehood and sheer violence organized by priestly class ( Brahmins )

    • Replies: @Malla
  7. anon19 says:

    At least India is a democracy which is more then can be said for Pakistan.

  8. @Alistair

    “ideal of Democracy itself was a WEIRD neo-liberal utopia,”
    I think you mean liberal idea. Neoliberalism & democracy are like the drover & his dog. Should the dog start to exhibit “ideas” (let alone behaviours) of it own, it’s liable to be taken out behind the shed….
    “democracy is learning process not a destination”. That sounds great — except for being er… profoundly idealistic.
    “Democracy is the Rule of Majority, but a well informed majority free of influence peddling, Fake news or Fake narratives.” Fake news etc etc is not a glitch in the system, it is the system . And majority rule? Refer back to the drover & his dog.

  9. A bit more than half of India’s population has no access to what its own government considers to be sanitary toilet facilities, and even 40% of those families that do still have at least one family member who still prefers to defecate in the open. Many of those believe defecating in the open is more wholesome. Mr. Modi has problems more serious than the Muslims to deal with, but they are scapegoats that are less embarassing to deal with than the shit India is actually in.

    One does wonder if Mr. Trumps new round of sanctions on India are going flush the US plumbing industry out with the farmers.

    • Replies: @Bliss
  10. Anonni says:

    Inaccurate comments and article just another round of hate the Hindu pagan.

  11. Miro23 says:

    I Agree, Democracy is the Rule of Majority, but a well informed majority free of influence peddling, Fake news or Fake narratives.

    What kind of fantasy is this? The only Democracy that slightly approaches this would be your own very local community, meeting in the same room, and having an open and researched topic by topic discussion with a vote.

    Repeat over the whole country, add up the results and make it law.

  12. Bliss says:
    @The Alarmist

    Many of those believe defecating in the open is more wholesome.

    Considering that the pre-Vedic Indus Valley Civilization had the most advanced sanitation system of the ancient world it is likely that this Hindu preference for shitting outdoors came with the arrival of the steppe nomads aka aryans into India. Tent dwelling nomads, like modern day hikers, never shat in their tents or yurts which were their only homes.

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  13. @Bliss

    That is very interesting insight, but to paraphrase our old friend Rummy, “You go to war with the Indians you have.”

  14. @KA

    Isn’t it the BJP types who also deny that there was ever an Aryan invasion of the subcontinent and push that ludicrous ‘out of India’ theory, according to which the Aryans originated in India and invaded the rest of Eurasia? Asking for a friend …

  15. DB Cooper says:

    India is a bully. Just ask its many neighbors. The country is a British Raj wannabe. India has the dubious distinction of only a few countries that has invaded and grabbed land from every single of its neighbors during its short existence of seventy plus years. All this largest democracy talks can only fool the gullible people. India is an oppressive state.

  16. Victor says:

    Really this Margolis article just echoes a lot of BS re. Modi taken from the tiny English educated liberal press in India the same way that the ‘liberal’ press in the US such as HuffPost MSNBC and CNN demonizes Trump.

    One of the biggest genocides was the Mughal/Muslim Genghis Khan type invasion and conquest of India. They in turn were conquered by the British but the resentment against Muslims remains especially in North Indians who bore the brunt of Mughal cruelty. The Indian liberal press has a puzzling liking for Muslims and dislike of Hindus, forgetting about the blatant intolerance by Muslims towards non-Muslims in India’s neighbor country, Pakistan

    Margolis mentions that Modi tolerated the ‘massacre’ of 1000’s of Muslims but fails to mention that it happened due to a wave of fury caused by Muslims locking two train cars full of Hindu pilgrims, then tossing in and lighting cans of gasoline to burn them alive!

    Moreover he doesn’t seem to realize that the Congress party that ruled India for so many years, had been taken over by a 100% Italian lady Sonia Gandhi in a slow ‘Regime Change’ operation. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was just her puppet.

    At age 18 while working as a waitress in Cambridge she attracted the attentions of Rajiv Gandhi.
    After marriage in a series of suspicious assassinations and plane accidents over many years starting with the killing of mother-in-law Indira Gandhi during the western sponsored Kalistan movement and ending with the killing of husband Rajiv by the western sponsored Tamil tigers she became the head of the Congress party. She ruled the country in effect till 2014 when Modi decisively won the election.

    So no wonder that the 85% majority Hindus in India have again swept Modi to power.

    • Replies: @John from Wyoming
    , @Malla
  17. @Victor

    Thank you for a nuanced look under the topsoil. I get the feeling that most coverage for India’s story is oversimplified.
    On a broader note, this website’s tagline reads “A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media”. This article was disappointing because it reads more like a vituperative regurgitation of WAPost and NY Times opinion pieces.

  18. Indians are perhaps the most ridiculous nation on the planet. Most high numbers of extreme poor packed into their country than exist in the whole of the African continent and yet their brand of nationalism is of a highly neoliberal sort of nature; it’s odd, that country and its national psyche.

    • Replies: @Lin
  19. Lin says:

    I posted the followings at an indian economist’s blog:
    “The poverty of Indians IMO has more to do with:
    1)Casteist elitism rather than government or ‘socialism’. Ever wonder why the Indians managed to create a successful I.T. or I.T. enabled sector for the more educated upper or upper-middle castes/class to work in air-conditioned rooms but lagged in labour-intensive manufacture(which enabled east Asians to jump start their economies) that could employed 10s of millions of poorer indians? (Labour regulation is not an excuse; I sincerely think its the other way round: because jobs are hard to come by, so the workers fought tooth and nail to keep their jobs.)
    2)Odd sense of prioritization of objectives/goals. Examples:
    — Because of success of the indian I.T. sector, some Indians thought india can by pass the industrialization stage. According to this indian economist(article written in 1995), Bharat was already in the post-industrial stage in 1995:
    —India obviously over produced sub-standard college graduates while the grade school system is in poor shape.
    —India is likely the only country on earth that commissioned an aircraft carrier(in 1961, bought from UK) 6 years earlier than getting the first submarine(in 1967 from Russia). Why such urgency to acquire an aircraft carrier? I’m only a layman on such matters but my guess is that an aircraft carrier is good ‘India shining’ optics while a submarine usually submerges out of sight…”

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
  20. Lin says:

    It’s quite doable to rewrite pre-muslim hindu history because the hindu institution(or sense) of ancient religion/civilization is largely a ‘construct’ and ancient hindus had very poor sense of historiography.
    Of curse in reality, being a construct or based on real lineage might not matter if the majority of hindus could ‘accept’ such re-writing of history.
    The popoular PM Modi said the hindu elephant god ganesh was the result of transplanting an elephant head onto a human torso and human resources minister said ancient Bharat had nuclear weapons:

  21. anonymous[151] • Disclaimer says:

    Given the heights of pagan pestilence called hinduism, with its worship of rapist deities (Vishnu/Tulsi), gay deities (Vishnu/Shiva), worship of genitalia(lingam/yoni), worship of the goddess of menstruation (google it), the devil kali, and so many other abominations, it is no wonder that those seriously braindead idiots will elect a complete illiterate loser to lead them.

    They understand that the west is beginning to sit up and take notice of this evil man, so the process of whitewashing him and his evil ideology of hindutva has already begun.

    These are 2 articles from TAC which highlight what I mean;

  22. DB Cooper says:

    I remember years ago there is a phrase Indians like to describe the state of the country’s progress. And that is “leapfrogging from an agricultural economy to a service economy, totally by passing manufacturing”. A lot of Indians then actually took pride in that.

    “Why such urgency to acquire an aircraft carrier? ”

    India is a British Raj wannabe from day one. And nothing epitomize British power than its navy. And an aircraft carrier is the most potent symbol of navy prowess.

    • Replies: @Lin
  23. Lin says:
    @DB Cooper

    I can understand the hindus urge to look big(much like a hijra with a strap-on pretending to be a porn star). Some points:
    –No kidding, a significant % of the indian jobs are unsteady service jobs like domestic servants, porters, astrologers,…So the Indians do have a ‘service economy’ but industrialization means housing, roads, hospitals, schools, cement plants, steel mills, machinist jobs.., The US steel production has declined because much of the works were done. Do the Indians want to do without the above?
    –Why such claims? a)Its a hindu mind set that the higher castes avoid making their hands dirty(or spiritually polluted). It means working in call centres is much preferred to supervising workshops; just leave the spiritual polluting labor/physical work to the low castes.
    –I can understand the average frustrated internet hindus need to brag but if established academics could make such claims, the hindus have serious psychological issues.
    That 1st indian carrier throughout most of the service life was in a poor state of readiness or even technical well being. Strange sense of priority considered that the indian army in the 1962 china-india border war complained they had bolt-action Lee Enfield while the Chinese soldiers had semi-automatics .

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
  24. DB Cooper says:

    Its all about form over substance. It doesn’t matter the aircraft carrier was in a poor state. It ‘looks’ good and gave them bragging rights. That’s the mindset of the Hindus.

  25. Malla says:

    It was. They used the same techniques against Buddhism. Many Hindu temples today were built on destroyed Buddhist Pagodas.

  26. Malla says:

    by a 100% Italian lady Sonia Gandhi in a slow ‘Regime Change’ operation. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was just her puppet.

    There are people of Indian origin becoming MPs in Britain and Canada. There are people of Indian origin going high places in the US political space. So why cant an Indian citizen of Italian origin become our PM? Desis can become politicians in White countries but no White person can become a powerful figure in India. Talk about racism.

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