Blaming Biden: Why are "Progressive" Indian-American Lawmakers Doing Modi's Dirty Work on COVID?


Narendra Modi has been no less destructive to the Indian social fabric than Donald Trump has been to cohesion in the United States. Yet the same Indo-American lawmakers who sell themselves as ‘progressive’ and antiracist in the United States have been largely silent on Modi’s Hindu supremacy, if not tacitly endorsed it.

Take, for example, Rep. Ro Khanna’s relentless push for President Biden to invalidate the intellectual property protection of the Pfizer vaccine so that India, a country now beseeched by a tsunami of COVID infections, oxygen shortage, and deaths, can give it to their people.

In India, though, licensure of vaccines is not the problem. India is, after all, the world’s largest vaccine producer, and it has available in its arsenal many more vaccines than even the US does. India is using vaccines from Russia, Europe, and even a home-grown vaccine. Yet it can't produce enough to make a significant dent in its present COVID crisis.

As for the US-approved vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, Modi’s government is actively blocking their sale in India. While technically the Indian government has invited them to sell their vaccines in India, they are insisting on local clinical trials of these drugs within a month of granting them emergency use authorization. Should drugmakers focus on producing doses to inoculate the population in India or repeating and re-conducting clinical trials?

Can Ro Khanna answer how the need, as far as the government of India is concerned, for new clinical trials would be obviated should Pfizer license its technology to generic manufacturers in India, except allowing those companies to essentially steal the technology? I doubt he can.

I also doubt that Ro Khanna can explain how his bugaboo issue of licensure would help India actually make and distribute the vaccines it needs. The United States is already shipping massive amounts of raw materials for vaccines, as well as much of our unused stockpile of the AstraZeneca vaccine, to India.

But the Indian vaccine makers, under the leadership of the Modi government, are failing badly at their jobs. Even Brazil, a traditional Indian ally, refused to authorize the Indian homegrown vaccine, Covexin. Brazil’s drug regulatory body said that the Indian company making the vaccine was violating safe manufacturing practices. Specifically, the Brazilian agency could not verify that the Indian-manufactured vaccine wasn’t actually going to inject people with the live coronavirus.

Why, when Indian manufacturers are such a mess, should vaccine technology from American companies be licensed to them?

The manufacturing crisis, coupled with a Modi leadership crisis, isn’t just affecting vaccine production in India. The supply of generic medications used to treat COVID infection, as well as oxygen tanks, are running into supply and transportation issues. People are dying at hospitals waiting for oxygen shipments. The situation has gotten so bad that the Supreme Court of India has ordered the Modi government to submit a plan to ramp up oxygen supply, a plan that, if the Court had to order one, presumably does not already exist.

India, like every other country, has had more than a year to prepare for their current COVID surge. But instead of stockpiling treatment medication, vaccines, and equipment at every hospital, Narendra Modi and his entire Hindu nationalist government was busy taking premature victory laps.

India has a COVID problem. India has a vaccine supply problem. People are dying, and crematoriums and graveyards are having to turn away families or make them wait for days to lay their loved ones to rest.

But none of India’s COVID-related problems is American in its making, nor solvable through outside aid alone. Prime Minister Modi, like Donald Trump in the US, created India’s crisis through systematic negligence and incompetence.

Yet, run a search on Twitter of Khanna (or Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal, for that matter), Modi, and COVID/coronavirus, and you can hear deafening silence of zero results. Instead, Khanna, right here in the US, is doing Modi's dirty work to push blame onto western countries and keep nationalist fervor alive in India.

The question is, why won’t Indian-American politicians like Ro Khanna say this simple truth? Why does it appear that people like Khanna are as afraid of telling the truth about Modi as the Republican leadership is about Trump’s big lie?

That’s because they are that afraid of telling the truth about Modi, and for much the same reason.

Like Trump’s stranglehold on the base of the Republican party, which has now fully embraced conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, Narendra Modi appears to have hypnotized the political views of much of the Indian American diaspora. I say this with great pain, because I am a part of that same diaspora. Fully half of Indian Americans approve of Modi, with just 30% drawing a clear line of disapproval. In the Indian American Attitudes Survey released in September of last year - admittedly, before India’s succumbing to the COVID crisis - almost 7 in 10 Hindus approved of Modi and his sectarianism in India.

The same people are largely supportive of minority rights in the United States, and they see white supremacy as a major threat. But they do not see Hindu supremacy as a major threat for India, and I can give you a hint why. It doesn’t threaten them.

Just as with the good majority of white Christians in America, what a majority of the Indian diaspora see as a threat in India is everything that isn’t them. Modi, like Trump, has used the deep-seated phobia of ‘others’ (read, Muslims) in India as well as in the Indian diaspora to consolidate a sectarian majority for his own purposes.

And politicians in the west have used this tendency to their advantage before. One of the many factors in the victory of the British Conservative Party in the 2019 election, for example, was the consolidation of the ‘Hindutva’ vote in the UK against Labour. There’s a reason why Trump’s ‘Howdy Modi’ rally in Texas and Modi’s ‘Namaste Trump’ gathering in Ahmedabad, India filled two of the largest sports stadiums in the two countries.

Without a doubt, when consolidated and voting as a bloc, Indian diaspora voters can do considerable damage. In that light, it would be almost understandable why Ro Khanna, who hails from a Congressional district highly influenced by Indo-American voters, would want to stay in their good graces.

I say almost, because it is the job of leaders to lead. It is the job of people who want to be in Congress to represent all of their constituents, not just their political base. It is the job of good, decent human beings to stand up against ethno-religious supremacy, against the tide if need be.

It is deeply shameful and utterly dishonorable to do otherwise.

Like what you read? Leave a Tip. 

💰 Fund the Fight

Like what you read? Leave a Tip. 

💰 Fund the Fight