NEW DELHI - In India, the world’s largest democracy, which has long looked to the United States as a model to be emulated, the overrunning of the U.S. Capitol by President Donald Trump’s supporters evoked shock and disbelief, even as political analysts cautioned that there are important lessons to be learned.
Others expressed concern that the domestic turmoil highlighted by the events could weaken the global leadership role of the United States.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was distressed to see news of rioting and violence in Washington.
“Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests,” he tweeted.
The unprecedented events unfolded after Trump repeated his false claims that November's election was "stolen,” and urged his supporters, who had gathered in the thousands in Washington, to march on the Capitol to express their anger.
“As a fellow democracy, India would be looking inwards to see what happens when polarization becomes this extreme. For a society as stratified as India’s along lines of caste, religion, ethnic fault lines, we have managed so far, but the challenges are only growing,” said Harsh V. Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College London, who also heads the Strategic Studies Program at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.
Many commentators fear that polarization along religious lines has been growing in India since Modi took power six years ago. His rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party has worked to consolidate the vote of the majority Hindus, resulting in marginalization of Muslims.
“What happened in Washington underlines the risk from leaders who are pushing for division in society as a means of electoral mobilization. If a solid, old democracy like the United States can come to this point, this is a serious issue for all,” said Manoj Joshi, at the Observer Research Foundation.
“In India, for example, you appeal to the Hindus because they are a majority and then you win election after election,” he said.
There are also worries in New Delhi’s security establishment that a deeply divided country could weaken the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden. India is looking to the United States for strong global leadership as its territorial disputes with China intensify in the Himalayan mountains, where troops from both sides have been confronting each other for nearly eight months.
“Everyone is shocked, that much is obvious. But the bigger concern is that the internal turmoil and discord in the country could preoccupy the Biden administration so much that it will be incapable of acting forcefully in the world to counterbalance China,” said Sreeram Chaulia, dean of the Jindal School of international Affairs at O.P. Jindal University.
“The events at Capitol Hill only highlight that the incoming president will be under a lot of pressure from Trump and his supporters,” Chaulia said.