কোনও বাণিজ্য চুক্তি স্বাক্ষরিত না হওয়ায় ডোনাল্ড ট্রাম্প-নরেন্দ্র মোদী জাম্বুরি ছিলেন দুই দেশ নয়, ফার্স্টপোস্ট

কোনও বাণিজ্য চুক্তি স্বাক্ষরিত না হওয়ায় ডোনাল্ড ট্রাম্প-নরেন্দ্র মোদী জাম্বুরি ছিলেন দুই দেশ নয়, ফার্স্টপোস্ট

Translating…

  • The cacophony over the two-day visit of US President Donald Trump to India was deafening, but at the end of it, there is nothing much to cheer for the Indian side.

  • Throughout his visit, Trump conducted himself like the seasoned businessman that he surely is, someone who never lets a deal happen unless it isn’t beneficial to his side.

  • The real gainers of the ‘Namaste Trump’ event were Trump and Modi; the rest was all show.

The cacophony over the two-day visit of US President Donald Trump to India was deafening, but at the end of it, there is nothing much to cheer for the Indian side. The only tangible outcome of the Trump visit is the $3 billion defence deal. That bolsters India’s defence armory but is no good news for Modi’s ‘Make in India’ drive. Also, let us not forget that Trump has smartly scored points back home winning business for his country and acting to keep China in check (US-India military cooperation is key). For India, the big ticket item was always the trade deal to generate jobs and that didn’t happen.

At the Motera Stadium, both Trump and Modi engaged crowds with smart oratory. Both men struck all the right notes on optics, showered praises on each other’s work (Modi spoke about Trump’s vision and Trump praised Modi’s inclusive governance). Political messages were sent. Trump boasted about how he built his country’s military might. Modi compared the Statue of Liberty with the Statue of Unity. Trump, who faced an impeachment trial at home for misusing his office, had been dreaming of 7 million people awaiting him in Ahmadabad and termed his visit —‘Namaste Trump’ —as the biggest event “they have ever had” in India.

 With no trade deal signed, Donald Trump-Narendra Modi jamboree was about two men, not two countries

Narendra Modi and Donald Trump in New Delhi. Image courtesy: Twitter/@narendramodi

The signals were clear the moment Trump termed Modi a “tough negotiator” while speaking about the trade deal negotiations with India at the Motera Stadium on Monday. That wasn’t him praising his ‘true friend’. It meant that the talks on the rumoured mega trade deal between India and the US have fallen flat, at least for the time being. India would have benefited immensely from the deal.

India-US trade has grown over the years. In 2019, the total trade touched $92 billion.

Throughout his visit, Trump conducted himself like the seasoned businessman that he surely is, someone who never lets a deal happen unless it isn’t beneficial to his side.

For Modi, clinching this deal would have been a major political victory for Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and would have been the centerpiece of Trump’s India visit.

Even before Trump landed in Ahmedabad, reports had already suggested that a trade deal, even a limited one, wasn’t happening this time. The demanding US side has been mounting pressure on India to reverse price restrictions on certain products, rising tariffs and India’s position in e-commerce business, while India had demanded that the US restore the Generalised Systems of Preferences (GSP), which Trump had withdrawn in June. The GSP had allowed Indian manufacturers duty free exports of over 3,000 select products to the US. As it appears now, the trade deal is not happening.

Protectionism is Trump’s stated policy and no country, including India, is an exception for the US unless the relation is beneficial in terms of business transactions. In recent years, Trump’s policies have significantly damaged India’s prospects—in terms of trade and business. That’s no surprise, given the fact that Trump thinks and talks like a businessman. But this time, beyond the business deal, Trump needed this India visit for his electoral ambitions. About 4.5 million people of Indian origin live in the US and are of political significance to Trump. He needed their attention. According to the National Asian American Survey, in 2016, only 16 percent Indian Americans voted for Trump. He would want the figure to go up this time by playing a ‘friend’ to India.

For Narendra Modi too, Trump’s visit was of extreme significance even if it did not deliver tangible results.

Modi’s government is caught in the unending puzzle of nationwide anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests. At least 22 people have lost their lives in violence in the past two days. Journalists have also been beaten up. The protesters thronging the streets of Delhi and elsewhere in the country are gaining international attention. Global leaders and human rights organisations have begun to speak up.

The international press is unhappy with Modi’s way of dealing with anti-CAA protests, and some global media outlets have termed him authoritarian and Islamophobic. Back home, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been losing Assembly elections one after another, even as it received a landslide mandate in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The Indian economy is on a downward slide. Modi’s management of the economy which has resulted in high unemployment and low growth has come under severe criticism. In this backdrop, from the point of view of the Union government, the Trump family’s visit has served as a good diversion from real issues. Standing next to the most powerful man in the world, Modi showed that he is still in big world league.

At a time the country is fighting an economic slowdown and Delhi’s streets are burning in violence, the Modi administration managed a grand show for Trump family. The real gainers of the ‘Namaste Trump’ event were Trump and Modi; the rest was all show.

In many ways, ‘Namaste Trump’ can be seen as a quid-pro-quo for the ‘Howdy Modi’ event last year in Houston. The ‘Howdy Modi’ event held in last year offered the right degree of pomp for Modi back home. Ever since his ascension to the national scene in 2014, Modi has worked hard to build his global leader image. Both Modi and Trump are masters of optics. Both know how to time big events for their political benefit. Trump, ahead of his visit, too has built up momentum for the mega event, even sharing a meme that showed him as the ‘iconic’ Bahubali character of Indian cinema. That the ‘Namaste Trump’ event didn’t mean much for India in terms of tangible results isn’t a real surprise. The Donald Trump visit was about two men and not two countries.

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Updated Date: Feb 26, 2020 17:49:28 IST