Modi Wins Big—What’s Next?
Plus: A ruling on same-sex relations in Kenya, May's departure date, and the other stories we're following today.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his allies win big, Kenya’s High Court rules on same-sex relations, and British Prime Minister Theresa May announces her departure date.
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A Huge Win for Modi in India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won big on Thursday: His Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is on track to increase its majority in Parliament, the first back-to-back outright victory for a single party since 1984. The predicted margin of victory—351 seats to the 93 seats of the opposition coalition—exceeded the exit polls released Sunday.
Foreshadowing. Although it is a repeat victory for the BJP, this election was different in two ways that could foreshadow a shift in character for Indian politics, Ravi Agrawal writes:
“The first is the way New Delhi managed communications around a terrorist attack on its soil in February, marshaling jingoism as a way to unite voters and the media. The second is how even opposition parties seemed to distance themselves from the vision of India as a secular country, instead joining the BJP to some extent in pandering to the country’s Hindu majority amid a marked uptick in anti-Muslim rhetoric. Both developments will be difficult to reverse.”
Pakistan responds. Last month Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said a BJP win would bring the possibility of peace talks between the two countries. In the months before the election, they came close to war. With Modi on course to win, the two leaders exchanged Twitter messages hopeful for peace on Thursday. But earlier in the day, Pakistan announced that it conducted a missile test—a possible warning.
What’s next? Modi also has his work cut out for him on the economy. Unemployment rose to 7.6 percent last month, and economic growth has fallen to 6.6 percent. Reversing these trends will be his immediate challenge.
What We’re Following Today
May gives her departure date. Facing backlash from her own party, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced she will step down on June 7. Her latest Brexit plan —heavily criticized—was due today but will be delayed.
Kenya rules on same-sex relations. Kenya’s High Court will rule today on whether colonial-era laws that criminalize gay sex are unconstitutional. Activists expect a landmark decision, as Kenya’s courts have recently ruled in favor of LGBT rights. Kenya is one of 33 African nations that ban homosexual activity, and those convicted face up to 14 years in prison.
The ruling was postponed in February, disappointing Kenya’s LGBT community. Rights activists were energized when India struck down its sodomy laws last year, entering the ruling into evidence. Challenges to similar laws are pending in other former British colonies, including Botswana, Malawi, Jamaica, and Singapore.
Another round in the war of words. After the Pentagon confirmed it was considering sending more troops to the Middle East amid tensions with Iran, U.S. President Donald Trump said he didn’t think that would be necessary, casting doubt on the plan. Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani again stepped up his rhetoric, saying Iran would not surrender to U.S. pressure.
Research shows the Iranian public doesn’t consider the United States to be its primary enemy, Fotini Christia, Elizabeth Dekeyser, and Dean Knox write for FP. “Even in nonpolitical realms, over half of respondents supported more engagement with the United States,” they write.
Trump travels to Tokyo. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will meet Japan’s economy minister today ahead of a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this weekend. While the two countries are negotiating a trade agreement, it is not expected to be sealed during Trump’s visit.
Keep an Eye On
The case against Julian Assange. The U.S. Justice Department has brought 17 new charges, including espionage, against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for leaking classified information. Assange is currently serving a 50-week sentence in London and also faces extradition to Sweden. Which court he sees next is up to Britain’s interior minister.
The U.N. Ebola chief. The United Nations appointed its first Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator. The Ebola chief will tackle the ongoing epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where treatment has been hindered by armed groups and community distrust. Many local residents believe the disease to be a conspiracy.
Wikipedia in Turkey. Wikipedia has petitioned the European Court of Human Rights over a ban of the website in Turkey. Authorities have blocked Wikipedia in the country since 2017, likely over political content. Wikipedia has been shut down completely in China this month ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.
Sri Lanka’s veil ban. In the wake of the Easter bombings by an Islamic State-affiliated group, Sri Lanka’s government banned face coverings. The move clearly targets Muslim women, and it exacerbates harassment and hatred—on both sides, Chandni Doulatramani writes for FP.
Senegal has begun importing turbines for a large-scale wind farm, the first such project in West Africa. President Macky Sall hopes to make Senegal a renewable energy leader: Clean energy projects currently make up a tiny share of Africa’s electricity production.
Thousands were evacuated from towns in Israel on Thursday as firefighters battled wildfires in the country’s center. The region is experiencing a major heatwave expected to continue today.
Scientists have traced a recent rise in ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, to gas production in eastern China. Most of chemicals were banned worldwide in 1987.
Odds and Ends
A 1999 Eurodance song, “We’re Going to Ibiza!,” has led protest chants and topped streaming charts this week in Austria. The video that appears to show two of the country’s far-right politicians engaged in shady dealing was recorded in a villa on the island.
Kampala, the capital of Uganda, has passed a law banning donations to children on the streets. The law aims to combat child exploitation in the city, where an estimated 15,000 kids are homeless.
Foreign Policy Recommends
Tablet has an edge-of-your-seat longread on the Israeli military’s secret mission to destroy a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007: from a covert special forces operation to collect samples near the nuclear site to a daring air raid and the debates between Israeli, American, and British intelligence officials leading up to it. The story is excerpted from Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power, a new book from Yaakov Katz, the Jerusalem Post’s editor in chief. Robbie Gramer, staff writer
Later today on FP’s podcast, First Person: As U.S. state lawmakers pursue increasingly restrictive abortion laws, FP takes a look back at last year’s referendum in Ireland to legalize abortion.
That’s it for today.