The Complications of Hosting India’s Prime Minister: Geopolitics Vs. Human Rights – OpEd


President Joe Biden’s forthcoming meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has drawn attention and criticism regarding the prioritization of traditional geopolitics over human rights.

While India is recognized as the world’s largest democracy, Modi’s leadership style, characterized by Hindu nationalism, has raised concerns about the government’s crackdown on journalists, political opposition, and the targeting of Indian Muslims. This article explores the complexities that arise from the Biden administration’s decision to host Modi and the implications it has on the human rights agenda.

Realpolitik and Geopolitical Considerations:

Although human rights advocates have criticized Biden for extending a state dinner invitation to Modi, the administration acknowledges the constraints of realpolitik. India is considered a crucial partner in the United States’ rivalry with China, and fostering stronger ties with New Delhi is seen as strategically important. Moreover, the global contest between democracies and autocracies has shaped Biden’s foreign policy, leading to the decision to engage with India — despite its flaws.

Strategic Partnership and Regional Stability:

Experts argue that the United States benefits from maintaining a strategic partnership with India. As Caroline Grey from the Eurasia Group notes, India’s significance lies in its potential to balance against China in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. Strengthening U.S.-India relations is seen as crucial to counter China’s economic and territorial ambitions. The elevation of India within the Quad alliance, along with Australia and Japan, reinforces democracy’s position in the Pacific.

The State Dinner as a Symbolic Gesture:

Hosting Modi for a state dinner is a highly symbolic gesture that highlights his growing influence on the world stage. As India becomes the world’s most populous nation and its economy surges, the Biden administration aims to recognize India as a close partner and ally, despite not being a formal U.S. ally. This distinction underscores India’s emphasis on maintaining its independence in international relations. India didn’t care about the US ban on the Russian oil amid the Ukraine war but Washington put a blind eye on this matter. 

Balancing Human Rights and Geopolitical Interests:

While the Biden administration claims to be aware of India’s faults and challenges, it has chosen to address concerns privately rather than publicly. Human rights activists argue that remaining silent on India’s deteriorating human rights situation, its authoritarian tendencies, and the persecution of religious minorities indirectly condones such actions. Critics argue that a public rebuke could exert more pressure on the Modi government to improve its human rights record.

The Promise of a Private Conversation:

White House officials pledge that Biden will raise human rights issues privately with Modi during their meeting. However, the symbolism of a public rebuke holds greater weight in the international community. Critics worry that the absence of a public confrontation will be perceived as a green light for Modi’s leadership, signaling that the United States is willing to overlook the authoritarian trends and vilification of Muslims under his government. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urge Biden to raise the human rights issue with Modi in his meeting. 


The decision to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi and extend a state dinner invitation reflects the Biden administration’s commitment to engaging with India as a key player in countering China and reinforcing democratic values. However, this approach raises concerns about prioritizing geopolitics over human rights. Critics argue that publicly addressing human rights concerns would carry more significance and have a stronger impact on improving the situation. As the world watches the outcome of the meeting between Biden and Modi, it remains to be seen how the United States will navigate the delicate balance between its strategic interests and the promotion of human rights.

Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai

Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai is Senior Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad and author of The Troubled Triangle: US-Pakistan Relations under the Taliban’s Shadow. He tweets @yousafzaiZafar5.

One thought on “The Complications of Hosting India’s Prime Minister: Geopolitics Vs. Human Rights – OpEd

  • June 23, 2023 at 4:20 pm

    Wonder what are the Complications of Hosting Modi by the US for the sinking nation Pakistan, going around with a begging bowl.I would have avoided using these words but Paki authors appear to be paid to write anti India articles on imagined false narratives. If Washington can do business for many decades with Saudi Arabia, the Pak Army, and the Chinese Communist Party, it is unreasonable to think why the US can not do business with the largest democracy India in all spheres.Need to start thinking positively of your neighbour for your own benefit.Please listen to the Modi speech given to the joint houses of the US.


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