February 9, 2021
On Monday, February 8, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke to each other in their first official phone call, and discussed collaborating on the global fight against COVID-19, combating climate change, and upholding democracies, including in Myanmar. Modi, the 12th world leader to receive a phone call from Biden, tweeted later that the two leaders “reiterated our firm commitment to the Indo-US strategic partnership.”
Following four years of close relations between Modi and former U.S. president Donald Trump, what is included in an “Indo-U.S. strategic partnership” has been up for debate. During their overlapping tenures, Trump and Modi traveled with great fanfare on their respective diplomatic visits and promoted country-first policies: the Howdy, Modi! convention in Houston in September 2019 drew crowds of 50,000. February 2020’s corresponding event, Namaste Trump, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat (Modi’s home state), had Trump exclaiming, “America loves India, respects India...India gives hope to all of humanity” to a crowd of 125,000 Modi supporters.
Conversations about long-distance nationalism have often accompanied these rallies. “Modi has made the Indian American diaspora central to his foreign policy,” said Milan Vaishnav, Director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “For the past couple of years, we have been in conversation about the beliefs and attitudes of the community, and the election was an impetus for getting this [report] done.” Vaishnav — along with Sumitra Badrinathan, a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, and Devesh Kapur, a professor of South Asian Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) — is a co-author of a new report, “How do Indian Americans View India?”