Trump in India

Published February 25, 2020

DONALD Trump and Narendra Modi are alike in many ways.

Both are political outsiders who have managed to reach the top of their respective systems through a blend of right-wing populism and maverick ideas.

Both have pushed majoritarian agendas at the expense of minorities.

Perhaps this explains the bonhomie and back-slapping between them, which was on vivid display at a cricket stadium in the Indian city of Ahmedabad on Monday, where Prime Minister Modi pulled out all the stops for the ‘Namaste Trump’ event.

Gaudy and full of clichés — much like the politics of both men — the event was seen reciprocating the ‘Howdy Modi’ episode in Houston last year, where a crowd of non-resident Indians eagerly lapped up what Messrs Modi and Trump had to offer.

Mr Modi and company have taken other steps to ensure President Trump only gets to see ‘shining’ India, covering up the warts and all that make up the ‘real’ India.

For example, a wall has been built to hide an Ahmedabad slum from the US leader’s view, while monkeys in the Gujarat city have also been rounded up. A report says some 45 simians have been bundled off to parts unknown to ensure they don’t appear in front of Mr Trump’s aircraft.

On a more serious note, Mr Modi the politician has come a long way since he was barred in 2005 from entering the US for his role in the anti-Muslim Gujarat pogrom of 2002, when he was the state’s chief minister.

Today, the president of the US calls him a “tremendously successful leader”; never mind the fact that the demons of Gujarat have been summoned again by the Sangh Parivar to terrorise India’s Muslims, this time as Mr Modi sits in the prime ministerial chair.

The fact is that the anti-Muslim atmosphere in India — epitomised by the passage of divisive legislation, as well as the stifling situation in held Kashmir — will largely be ignored by the US as what matters the most is the market, in this case a market of over a billion people.

Moreover, despite all the glib talk of two ‘great democracies’, the fact is that Washington indulges New Delhi as an Asian bulwark against China, America’s rival for great power status.

Mr Trump also mentioned in his speech that he had a “very good” relationship with Pakistan, and that he hoped for peace in South Asia.

If Mr Trump really wishes to see stability in the subcontinent, he needs to tell his Indian friends that they must reduce their hostile posture where Pakistan is concerned.

This country has offered numerous times to open channels of dialogue with New Delhi, only to be rebuffed by the other side.

Also, the US leader should communicate that the situation in occupied Kashmir is unacceptable, and peace in South Asia will not be possible until a just solution to the issue has been found.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2020

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