Anthony Albanese welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Sydney in late May, with 20,000 packing the Qudos Arena at Sydney Olympic Park to hear them speak.
Albanese poured flattery on the Indian leader, telling the crowd “Prime minister Modi is the boss”, claiming he had a bigger crowd than Bruce Springsteen.
He also intervened personally to demand the lighting of the Opera House sails with the Indian flag—just weeks after the state Labor government decided to save money by declining to do so during King Charles’ coronation.
There was a lot of talk by the two leaders of “shared values”—supposedly centred on a commitment to democracy and cricket.
The two leaders also met to discuss trade, investment and defence.
The Australian ruling class is interested in boosting exports. But it is also focused on binding India more closely into the network of alliances such as AUKUS (Australia, the US and the UK) and the Quad (Australia, the US, Japan and India) designed to block China.
Defence Minister Richard Marles gushed that, “We have never had a greater strategic alignment with India than we do right now” saying this was key to plans for “the collective security of the Indo-Pacific region”.
So in the name of sharing “values” against China, Albanese will have nothing to say about Modi’s track record as a brutal and increasingly authoritarian leader.
Labor is also prepared to overlook India’s refusal to criticise Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in light of its support for the bigger face-off against China.
India has become the second largest importer of Russian oil over the last year, playing an important part in keeping Russia’s economy afloat, and also buys large amounts of weapons from Russia.
Modi, prime minister since May 2014, leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—Indian People’s Party.
The BJP espouses Hindutva or “Hinduness”, the idea that the only authentic expression of India is Hindu in nature and origin and that the Hindu majority should impose its will on the rest of society.
He has also been an activist since the age of 20 with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—the “National Volunteer Organisation”, formed in 1925 and inspired by fascist organisations in Europe.
The RSS is a mass membership, paramilitary organisation with between five and six million members and more than 56,000 branches which contributed to the founding of the BJP.
The RSS and in recent years BJP activists have unleashed bloody pogroms against India’s Muslim minority.
Modi has built his career by deliberately stoking communalism—targeting Muslims as an “enemy within”.
In 2002, as governor of Gujarat, Modi allowed racist thugs to rampage through Muslim areas and kill more than 2000 people.
The Guardian reports: “In the aftermath, Modi’s state government was accused of complicity in the violence by encouraging the Hindu mobs and directing the police to stand aside as Muslim households were attacked.”
In 2020, as prime minister, he failed to send in the police to stop deadly attacks on Muslims in New Delhi.
Over five days, Hindu chauvinist thugs killed at least 42 people and badly injured more than 200.
They began by surrounding and trying to burn down a mosque and then moved on to attack Muslim-owned houses and small businesses.
Families were forced to flee across roof tops while below mobs pelted them with stones and threatened them with beatings.
Modi has fanned the flames of hatred by introducing laws that specifically discriminate against Muslims and threaten their citizenship rights.
He has popularised the foul idea of “love jihad”, accusing Muslim men of seducing Hindu women to win them away from Hinduism.
When the BBC made a documentary on Modi’s career it was banned in India and officials raided the BBC’s offices in India.
Modi is committed to building Indian capitalism and has unleashed neoliberal attacks on the poor.
He has met significant resistance.
In 2020, some 250 million people took part in a one-day general strike—the largest in working class history.
Over the next year, hundreds of thousands of farmers protested against new laws that would strengthen corporate agriculture companies at the expense of smaller operators.
Tens of thousands drove their tractors into New Delhi and occupied central areas. They won and the laws were repealed.
Albanese will cosy up to Modi despite his crimes in the name of unity against China. Our allies are the workers and farmers who have taken the fight to Modi.
By David Glanz