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Trump's trade trumpet

USA might do what it wants but India can seldom afford to keep USA on its wrong side, even if India’s national pride is severely mauled

Trumps trade trumpet

World over, political leaders, like the head of state or head of government, collectively constitute a strange, unique class of homo sapiens, notwithstanding their diverse social, political, economic, or ethnic background. In fact, despite there being no single formula to connect them to their mental activity or potential political ability or disability on a defined wave-length, certain basic features of this "world political class", nevertheless, are clearly discernible. Most are likely to be garrulous. Some, extreme narcissist. Usually, given to oiling. Highly susceptible to, and intolerant of, criticism. Seldom magnanimous. At times ultra, jingo nationalists. Sizeable numbers thereof pursuing power to perpetuity till their departure for the graveyard. Sometimes a born Casanova par excellence. Most likely to be corrupt to the bone. And if heading a state with global reach, then losing the sense of proportion leading to intolerable bragging. Trying to undermine one and all; friend or foe. Forgetting that power, even at the height of one's glory, does not allow a long monotonous and monopoly innings to even the mightiest of the mighty on the Earth. From Hitler to Stalin; Mao to Nixon. Rise and fall are two sides of the same coin. A reality known, but remembered rarely.

It would, however, be difficult to define or conclude as to in which particular category or class the bewildering statement of US President Trump on India would fall when he declared that "India wants trade deal to keep me happy". That India is a "tariff king". One is not sure whether Indian diplomats or the politicians, both ruling or opposition, will be able to issue a suitable demarche to US Embassy for such avoidable undiplomatic, un-political, and an uncharitable public statement by the head of the sole superpower or not. Off the record, they might be able to express some sort of "disagreement" with words like "unfortunate", but in public anything other than a stoic silence is highly unlikely. In a way, Trump has understood the psyche of Indian foreign policy very well. The USA might do what it wants to do because it's the sole superpower; but India being what India is, for centuries, can seldom afford to keep the USA on its wrong side, even if India's self-respect, national pride and honour are severely mauled.

But who will try and convince India that this immature and childish chiding by the President of USA is nothing short of downright and obnoxiously insulting words thrown towards the whole of India! Let the USA try doing it on China and see what instant befitting retort it gets. That way China does deserve admiration and praise, notwithstanding Beijing's inflexible policy of "containment of India through indirect strategy". China's sense of self-respect and honour today are exemplary vis a vis dealing with the USA.

I, therefore, as a citizen of India, want to ask a few questions to US President Trump. Why is the USA so desperate to sell its military hardware to India? Why is the USA trying to make India buy obsolete F-16s of the 1970s and F-18s which have outlived their utility? Why is the USA constantly hankering after military bases in India? Why did USA compel India to go for LEMOA and COMCASA? Why did the USA sell a 40-year-old landing ship Trenton (re-christened Jalashwa) which is of little use to India's forces owing to its age-related high-cost maintenance and logistics? Why is the USA trying to snap the traditionally cordial Indo-Russian bi-lateral ties?

Why is the USA constantly threatening sovereign India with sanctions even when India is completely within her own inalienable and inherent rights for national interest, to buy oil from Iran and arms from Russia which is a proven dependable and reliable friend of more than five decades standing? What is wrong with the USA? That every foreign country has to take prior permission of President of the USA whatever they plan, or wish, to do?

About fifty years ago, there also was a US President called Richard Nixon. A bully par excellence who hated India in general and Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, in particular. He also had an able adviser Henry Kissinger. The duo tried their utmost to make the life of the Prime Minister of India difficult. They abused her. Used unprintable expletives. Tried to use all tricks to corner India diplomatically, subjugate militarily, arm-twist economically; using Pakistan as the springboard to establish a bridge with Communist dictator Mao, with the sole aim to get access to China's rising market. Nixon-Kissinger duo succeeded in Sino-Pakistan axis but stumbled on dextrous Prime Minister of India's diplomatic skill, political ability, and unprecedented military victory. The Americans humiliated India no end, but themselves ended with mega ignominy. Both externally and internally. Externally, Nixon had to eat the humble pie as India emerged as a power to be reckoned with. Internally too, Nixon was impeached and had to quit ignominiously.

Perhaps today, Trump can take a few lessons on several subjects in case he still wishes to continue bearing the mantle of US state power successfully and with honour. First, someone should teach him the semantics of English language. Selection of word and appropriate application thereof with the sense of date, time, and place. Calling names and undermining all, friends and foes alike, may not be after all a very wise action for a person holding the office of the President of the USA. A few slips of tongue or use of once-a-year un-parliamentary lingo could be tolerated perhaps. But repeated follies? Is not Trump insulting his own country and the high office which he is holding?

There is more. One wishes to ask what is Trump's personal business interests in India? Is he paying a high tariff to the tariff king called India? Why cannot he distinguish between his friend and foe? How come India's US$ 2.2 trillion (2015) economy constitute a threat to the US economy of US$ 18.037 trillion (2015)? Does Trump sincerely believe that India's 1.3 billion heads should be eternally subservient to America's 330 million populace? Or does he think India is a soft target and that bullying will put India to US submission?

Long and short of the Trump story is that he thinks he can do anything or everything to make "America great again". Unfortunately, this "anything and everything" tactics is unlikely to make him victorious to eternity. One needs to strike a balance between good and bad, subjective and objective, bona fide and mala fide, and on top of all this, one has to have a sense of fair play to rule the world if he really and sincerely believes that he (Trump) is a man with a mission to do something extraordinary for his country. But, first, at least, he should say sorry to 1.3 billion Indians. Else, we Indians will feel sorry for his "child-like behaviour in high office".

(The author is an alumnus of National Defence College. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Abhijit Bhattacharyya

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