Modi’s Washington DC Tour Offers Him a Propaganda Bonanza

The prime minister wears no clothes, but all DC wants is fashion tips


modi biden
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) with the US President Joe Biden at White House, Washington DC, USA, September 24, 2021.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Washington, DC on 20 June 2023, what those officials in the US government who invited him may not have accounted for is that his visit grants his ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the benefit of propagandizing in America at a time when Modi’s regime is putting democracy under the knife at home in India.

From marches to political summits to diaspora events, Modi’s visit enables sympathizers of the BJP — and the fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary which serves as its parent organization — to shore up his brand within the United States less than a year before India’s upcoming 2014 General Election. The only reason, however, that Modi and his international RSS-BJP backers are able to avail themselves of this golden opportunity for a US propaganda bonanza is thanks to his dual invitations to join a formal State Dinner with President Joe Biden at the White House as well as to address a Joint Session of Congress.

Modi will owe a debt of gratitude to the US officials who helped him obtain these platforms since, as he faces re-election to a third term, his American devotees are using his visit to his full political advantage.

A week-long series of events launched on 14 June, when Americans4Hindus (A4H) Political Action Committee hosted a so-called “Hindu American Summit” on Capitol Hill, with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy allegedly in attendance. The A4H founder and many of its funders are deeply tied to various international affiliates of the RSS-BJP and the group, undoubtedly, used the summit to advocate for Modi’s Hindu nationalist policies.

A4H founder Romesh Japra says it will be “the very first time we are doing a Hindu American summit for political engagement.” Yet he omits that the “political engagement” appears to be entirely on behalf of one particular Indian political party. Mentioning “20 organizations” involved in the summit, he fails to mention that the most established of these are all linked to the tight-knit “Sangh Parivar” (Family of Organizations) which spearheads India’s Hindu nationalist movement.

Those groups are, namely: the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), SEWA International, and Ekal Vidyalaya. Not only are all of these groups linked to the RSS-BJP in one way or another, but many of their leaders have been directly involved in helping to get Modi elected.

Moreover, Japra himself is far from apolitical when it comes to Indian politics.

His documented relationship with the party traces at least as far back as 2013, when he hosted a top BJP executive in his California home and, joined by OFBJP leaders, applauded the “change” Modi, then a candidate for prime minister, could bring to India. In 2019, he donned a BJP scarf and spoke at an Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) event, demanding that Modi be brought “back to power.” Meanwhile, since A4H first began collecting funds in 2019, approximately 40 percent of its donations have come from just 12 individuals who have long track records as either leaders in American Sangh Parivar groups, campaigners for Modi’s election, or both. Those funds have apparently gone for purposes such as hosting events with infamous RSS-BJP leader Ram Madhav as well as various other Hindu nationalist commentators.

Not to let A4H get all the attention, another group will organize an 18 June march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Although a flyer for the event claims it is organized by the “Indian American diaspora,” the only spokesperson quoted in media coverage is Adapa Prasad, President of the OFBJP.

Prasad is also pushing another event, this one a “cultural show” on 21 June in DC’s Freedom Plaza (just outside the White House). That same evening, the Biden family hosts Modi for an “intimate” supper. As Modi’s trip continues with the actual State Dinner on 22 June, the administration reportedly plans to turn it into a picnic extravaganza by holding it in a tent on the White House’s South Lawn.

That same day, before the dinner, Modi will address a Joint Session of Congress, making him — as has been made much of in the press — not only one of the few foreign leaders but the only Indian Prime Minister to have ever done so twice.

“As State Dinners have come to signify the President’s utmost respect for visiting heads of state, granting a joint address to Congress is a commensurate honor for the leader of the world’s largest democracy,” noted the letter from congressional representatives who initiated the demand that Modi be invited to give an address. In other words, it’s not just a routine laying out of the red carpet for a foreign leader, but rather the diplomatic equivalent of kissing their feet.

It’s also a way, by featuring Modi on the most prominent podium in the world, for the prime minister of a democratic country which has been downgraded to an “electoral autocracy” — and whose most strident critics accuse him of overseeing an impending genocide of religious minorities — to get, gratis, the most enviable and valuable publicity imaginable. Curiously, the propaganda value for Modi doesn’t seem to be a consideration to any major players in the US government.

Reportedly, Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) will both boycott the Joint Session, which is commendable but still leaves 533 members of the House and Senate in presumptive attendance. Meanwhile, human rights issues are not just not on the agenda: rather, a White House spokesperson actively rebuffed a question about it by praising India’s “vibrant democracy.” Such claims starkly contradict even official US State Department reports, let alone the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has repeatedly flagged the precarious condition of the country’s religious minorities.

The most current example is India’s state of Manipur, which even now burns as Hindu mobs — with apparent silent sanction by the BJP — attack Christians; perhaps as many as 200 have been killed, hundreds of churches torched, and thousands of homes razed.

As Manipur is ablaze, Modi’s invite to DC enables his devotees to organize yet one more event in America’s capital: a 23 June, invitation-only diaspora event where he’ll talk about “The Role of Diaspora in India’s Growth.” A more accurate title might be “the role of the American Sangh Parivar in Modi’s success.” Bharat Barai, one of the lead organizers and the event’s sole spokesperson thus far, is a longtime VHPA executive who personally led a team of hundreds of Indian-Americans to India in 2014 to campaign for Modi’s election.

From beginning to end, the packed schedule of events, while billed as “Indian diaspora” celebrations of India” are all, upon examination, nothing more than thinly-veiled partisan rallies organized by RSS-BJP linked activists to prop up and promote Modi himself. Coming just a year before India’s 2024 General Election, could the incumbent prime minister have asked for a better pre-election gift?

In 2022, raising concerns about the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in India, Representative Omar asked: “What will it take for us to outwardly criticize the actions that the Modi administration is taking?” Certainly, no one could imagine Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, China’s Xi Jinping, or Russia’s Vladimir Putin being so feted and honored by the US government. Yet, no matter how bad the situation gets in Modi’s India, the vast majority of politicians on both sides of the political aisle in Washington, DC can’t stop stumbling over themselves to be the first ones to babble about the stunning suit of “democracy and shared values” worn by a man whom even the tiniest child can see is a stark naked fascist.

What will it take for America to wake up and see that, indeed, Prime Minister Modi is wearing no clothes whatsoever and that our nation must stop providing him — and his zealots — platforms from which to claim otherwise? At this rate, one fears that even the outbreak of the impending anti-minority genocide about which experts are warning won’t do a thing to shake the American political establishment’s pig-headed commitment to “balancing” concerns about human rights with the supposed “need” to expand a “strategic partnership” with India.

Without a course correction, it won’t end well for either America or India, and years from now, the US government’s approach towards Modi will serve as yet another cautionary tale from which we will pray our descendants learn.

The hope, however, is the same as it has always been. With the establishment begs the naked ruler to put them in touch with his tailor, the common people in the street are the ones whose very separation from power permits them to speak the truth.

Truth topples regimes.

Pieter Friedrich is a freelance journalist specializing in analysis of South Asian affairs. He is the author of Sikh Caucus: Siege in Delhi, Surrender in Washington and Saffron Fascists: India’s Hindu Nationalist Rulers as well as co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent. Discover more by him at

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