There is little doubt that the Biden administration is leaving no stone unturned to make the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi a grand success. What has not gone unnoticed is that both Modi and President Biden are facing elections in 2024. In rolling out the red carpet to the White House, a state dinner and an address to Congress, the Biden administration must be eyeing the Indian American community. All this fuss over a person who was denied a visa at one time!

Estimated at 4-5 million, Indian Americans have carved out a niche for themselves to the envy of many immigrant groups. Name a sector and there is an Indian American of prominence; and slowly but steadily forays have been made in the realm of politics as well. From a lone lawmaker in the House of Representatives, the tally is now five; and the day may not be far off when an Indian American enters the US Senate. Kamala Harris (who is of Indian and Jamaican descent) is the Vice President and two Indian Americans — Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy — are in the Presidential race of 2024, representing the Republican Party.

Popular leader

Prime Minister Modi is seen as a popular leader among the Indian American community and President Biden and the Democratic Party have undoubtedly a lot to gain by maximising their support from the visit. It is said that 74 per cent of the Indian Americans voted for Biden and/or the Democratic Party in 2020; and the votes of this community are becoming increasingly critical in swing states like Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona where the margins of win in the Presidential and Congressional polls are quite narrow.

The relationship between the Indian American community and Democrats cannot be stretched beyond a point, though. Since the 2008 elections, the Grand Old Party has eaten into the near monopoly of the Democrats.

Today, the GOP is said to lay claim to about 20 per cent of the Indian American vote stressing that the community is generally conservative, for lower taxes and less of government on their backs. Both Haley and Ramaswamy may be long shots at this time but the fact that they are running a vigorous campaign shows the distance the community has travelled, irrespective of party affiliations.

Former president Donald Trump made the most of his friendship with Prime Minister Modi through the boisterous Howdy Modi rally in Houston in 2019 and the Namaste Trump show in Ahmedabad the following year. It is not sure if this time around the Indian community is putting together a major rally — other than the one planned at the Reagan Center — and if President Biden would make an appearance.

But the Indian American community may no longer be a monolithic entity (if it ever was!) to throw its weight behind President Biden. Between the liberals, centrists, progressives and the left, the Biden White House will not have the luxury of having satisfied “the” community for each will have a different take on the Modi visit. For even in the realm of the domestic American agenda, President Biden is having a difficult time getting Democrats together.

Not all will be fully impressed with the high-flying rhetoric on enhanced strategic partnership and the defence deals including jet engines, drones, technology transfer and ‘Make in India’ centres. Some will want to know whether President Biden spoke to Modi on human rights, religious freedom and the perceived growing democracy deficit in India. There is a thinking in American quarters that President Biden would have to say something publicly over and beyond what may have been discussed in private.

It is not that New Delhi gets worked up each time Washington talks about democracy; it is more about the tone and tenor of the lecturing that is resented. India and the US will truly have taken a step into the future if only there is a genuine understanding and the willingness to talk to each other and not at each other.

The writer is a senior journalist