As India Rises, Modi Battles Islam

Narendra Modi leads India to a new era

What’s happening: India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, traveled to the United Arab Emirates this week to dedicate a Hindu temple — the first in the country. This comes on the heels of his January 2024 inauguration of a grand temple built on the site of a razed mosque in Ayodhya, India.

Why it matters: Dual temple openings demonstrate that Modi, after two terms in office (with a likely third term ahead), is comfortable promoting Hindu nationalist beliefs. While agreeable to working with Muslim countries abroad, Modi will battle Islam at home.

Building a Hindu state: Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party members reject India’s secular foundations and seek to build a religious state similar to Israel’s. By consecrating a Hindu temple on such a controversial spot, Modi assuaged supporters who feel that Muslims are invaders.

  • The numbers: India is home to roughly 11 percent of the world’s Muslim population - nearly 200 million. As residents of the most populous country in the world, Muslims account for 14 percent of India’s population.

  • Approaching victory: Modi is favored to win the election with a clear majority; one 2023 poll indicated that he is the most popular world leader.

Rising power: India’s rising influence and Modi’s personal popularity have caused concern among some American commentators who see him as an autocrat. But with its massive population and key geographic position near China, America cannot afford to make an enemy of Modi or India.