There are systematic efforts of affiliates of the RSS and the BJP to influence the perception of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his hyper-nationalistic agenda in the U.S. through what they call “diaspora diplomacy.”
Pieter Friedrich, a freelance journalist specializing in analysis of South Asian affairs, points this out in his latest article, through a meticulous reconstruction of the flow of campaign donations to US Democratic candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni and his jump into American politics.
Kulkarni (who speaks English, Spanish, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Hebrew) has reportedly won the Democratic nomination to contest for a US House of Representative seat –in Houston (Texas’s 22nd congressional district). The Republican incumbent for that office, Pete Olson, announced he would not be running for reelection.
The foreign office career diplomat (served for fourteen years, including in Iraq, Russia, Israel, Taiwan and Jamaica) had resigned from his position after the 2017 Unite the Right rally, and filed to run for the US House of Representatives from Texas’s 22nd congressional district.
Friedrich points out that “the Unite the Right rally had revealed global intersections among supremacist movements from East to West”. “For some in America, he says, it was a wake-up call. “In Houston, Texas, it inspired Indian-American Sri Preston Kulkarni to run for Congress”.
Kulkarni and another (Ramesh Bhutada) were repeatedly asked their perspective on the money trail issues tackled in Friedrich’s article, but neither returned any attempt to contact them.
Kulkarni has denied that he is influenced by RSS or Hindutva. His responses, however, have failed to persuade Emgage, a political action committee which describes itself as the “political home for American Muslims. The group, noting that it previously endorsed Kulkarni’s 2018 campaign, refused to issue a re-endorsement.
Friedich traces PM Modi related diaspora diplomacy that started with India’s Hindu nationalist movement beginning to face staunch criticism in the US in the 1990s. “It found it expedient to develop a presence in the halls of US Congress so as to tell its side of the story”.
Modi was banned from the US in the early 2000s, so the movement’s Indian-American affiliates realized they needed advocates within Congress itself, who could push their agenda while stifling their critics, says the report.
“Hindu nationalist sympathizers within the diaspora found that the pro-immigrant Democratic Party offered space and scope to easily enter and expand, so they typically focused their efforts on supporting candidates on the left even as they champion a chauvinistic and majoritarian agenda in India.” More here…
In an earlier post, we wrote on how Hindu Nationalism in the U.S. explores the financial links between Sangh Parivar affiliates and the American counterparts that send them money. We cited a report published by the South Asia Citizens Web, which reveals just how much, and to whom it is going.
RELATED ARTICLE by Friedrich: How the American Sangh built up Tulsi Gabbard (United States Democratic Congresswoman)