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Introducing India’s New Prime Minister

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By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security

India’s Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi enjoys a hero’s victory welcome with flags and flowers as he arrives in New Dehli today. The new PM means a new India. For the first time, the Nehru-Ghandi family that dominated the Indian political process is set aside.

Modi, at 69, replaces Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 81, and his 10 years in office. A charismatic leader, for the general elections, Modi’s election bid was largely placed on strong unification and nationalist principles, promising: “Development for All.” He attempted to assure non-Hindu minorities that he is also their advocate.

But there is a dark foreboding past as well. Gujarat, India is Modi’s state. His past there is embedded with his strong stance against the Muslims in the Hindu-Muslim riots that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths. He was the chief minister that stoked the fires of Hindu mob violence against Muslims for a train fire where 59 people died. They were mostly Hindu activists returning from a rally in 2002 that were attacked by a mob of around 2,000 people which sparked the religious violence.

The U.S. placed a visa ban on Modi because of his biased role. Britain imposed a 10-year boycott, according to the Busiiness Insider. A member of the 109th Congress also filed a resolution (H. Res. 156 and H.Res.160) against then Chief Minister Narendra Modi for inciting religious persecution.

Modi’s darker character is also seen in his crackdown stance on illegal immigrants. He warned that illegal immigrants should have their “bags packed” if he comes to power and BJP demonstrates an anti-Muslim bias.

A breath of fresh air? The landslide victory of Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the largest in 30 years. Their decisive majoritarian gains mean that the BJP will not have to work with others to enact their political agenda. Massive corruption and failure plagued the previous government led India to take a new direction that the new Prime Minister and the BJP are leading.

Modi’s graetest challenge will be building a tough but responsible counter terrorist stance and not following into the trap of Hindu inciting ethnic nationalism and isolating a substantial Muslim population of some 175 million or 15 percent. Moreover, he will have a difficult time not targeting or purging BJP opponents and critics with his new found power status.

Modi will likely be tougher on Pakistan and friendlier to Western international counter terrorism efforts; especially in Afghanistan, where he will want to have some involvement in the stabilization process and a stronger defensive regional posture in general.

A huge task ahead will be to make India a genuine success and remove the anchors that weigh it down: combating starvation, extreme poverty and rampant political corruption; boosting the economy to make it attractive to the world; tackling the debt and ditching more of the Nehru welfare state model.

Modi will continue to push for a stronger national India foreign presence. He will not tolerate being treated as a second-rate state in foreign affairs, which follows the national consensus of an end of foreign humiliation or perceived humiliation. Ethnic nationalism is a thing to cautiously watch for in India during his term.

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