US President Donald Trump has a penchant for rubbing world fellow-leaders on the wrong side. His brushes with German Chancellor Angelo Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and his visibly cold relations with many other world leaders have attracted worldwide media attention.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who lays a lot of emphasis on personal chemistry, is now a victim of Trump’s intemperate behaviour and insolence and that cannot but cause deep annoyance in India.
Modi’s invitation to Trump to be the chief guest at next January 26, Republic Day event in New Delhi is yet to receive a response. A WhiteHouse spokesperson who alluded to it could only share that the President had not responded.
Today’s India is not the one to fall over backwards in wooing the president to come to this country.
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Sometime ago, while referring to Modi's phone call informing him of the decision to reduce the import duty on the American Harley-Davidson motorbike by 50 per cent (on Trump’s suggestion that it be slashed)and calling him a “beautiful and fantastic man” Trump mimicked Modi in his own characteristic style and made it abundantly clear that he wasn't truly "thrilled".
Observers have been wondering whether an issue which involves the export of around 3,700 Harley-Davidson motorbikes from the US to India and a mere 1,000 Indian motorbikes to the US annually deserve to be raised by the US president publicly and to be given so much traction in bilateral ties?
The President went so far as to mock and mimic Modi before a distinguished audience on this petty issue. If relations between the two world leaders have soured as a result, the blame lies squarely onTrump.
In the bargain, Modi and India have re-discovered their friendship with Russia and are even making common cause with China on economic issues which has irritated Trump further.
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Immigrant Indians are an important segment of society in the US and Trump’s arrogance towards India can hardly be expected to ingratiate them to him. If there is a consolation in all this, it is that Trump is even more arrogant towards Pakistan. But the rogue state that Pakistan is, India cannot justifiably be equated with it.
The inexplicably postponed visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis to New Delhi is due soon (possibly in September) for the first India-US 2+2 dialogue with their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and DefenceMinister Nirmala Sitharaman.
It is to be hoped that the dialogue would go well and that it would not reflect the high-handed attitude of the President. Suddenly calling off the dialogue without credible reason had raised frowns and had been attributed to Trump’s pique.
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The White House Press secretary Sanders raised hopes of a resurgence of ties when he said recently that the US and India have a deep and strategic partnership and "we are going to continue to build on that partnership" and advance co-operation. He added: "I think, you will see that in the meeting that would take place in September.”
It is by no means in India’s interest alone that trade ties between this country and the US be furthered. The US too has huge stakes in smoother political and strategic relations and vastly enhanced economic ties.
If Trump drags his feet in regard to his India visit for the high-profile Republic Day event, he would be striking a blow at the long-standing Indo-US relations.
Trump indeed needs to come down to earth from the perch he has taken. He has been at the helm long enough and surely he would not like to be remembered as a President who was a veritable disaster in the world’s most powerful position.