AGAINST THE GRAIN

(From India this week of Feb.23, 2018)
In the pictorial biography of Jawaharlal Nehru there is a photo where the prime minister is welcoming an American businessman named David Rockefeller. In that tradition Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India welcoming Donald Trump Jr. should not raise any eyebrows. But it does. Donald Trump Jr.'s father is the president of the United States. By welcoming him on a grand scale, the thinking goes, the Prime Minister assumes he can send the government's message to the White House directly. But there is a difference between the visits of David Rockefeller and Donald Trump Jr.

The Rockefeller organization was exploring ways to help India's development by investing in the country. The Trump organization is trying to milk India by lending its name to different buildings. It is not putting any money and therefore has no investment of skin in the game. A handful of people connected to BJP are building Trump Towers. They and their investors stand to benefit handsomely from all the hype the government provides. Mr. Modi's presence with Don Junior at the gathering arranged by them would be good for their business. Like Trump, Narendra Modi loves business. But where is the ethics?

The Modi government's concept of Hindu India meshes well with Donald Trump's idea of "Make America Great Again." The slogan, many think, is a dog whistle for making the US a country of white people. This is racism, no doubt. The BJP's mantra of "Hindu India" is absurd at best and communal at its worst. The Trump administration's anti-Muslim stand and BJP's attitude toward non-Hindus are similar. Between both run the twin tread of bigotry and hatred.

While the Modi Government is going out of its way to welcome Donald Trump Jr. who is touring India on business the Trump administration at home is undercutting India's interests. In its broader policy it wants illegal immigrants to leave the country. The calculation is that nearly 5000 tech-workers from India working in the United States will fall in this category. When they are sent back their displacement and the lack of jobs for so many of the highly skilled workers would create havoc in India's economy. In its trade policy the Trump administration is stamping extra tariff on iron and steel products coming from foreign countries. India is one of them. It wants India to help Afghanistan to build democracy. Yet, it is slashing foreign aids that help build institutions to nurture it. In a way the administration says one thing but does just the opposite.

In the people to people contact, the United States and India have remained friends from day one of India's independence. In spite of the Government of India's positions opposing many of US policies India and the US over the years have maintained friendly relations. They are democracies and that has been the common link between them. In recent years both countries have become very close. It is natural that the current administrations in New Delhi and Washington would try to take that relationship a notch further. However, in their famously perverted formula of parochial approach both administrations have struck blows to very basic principles of their respective countries.

The Trump administration opposes immigrants bringing in their relatives which it calls "chain immigration." In order to keep America white, Trump wants people from Sweden to immigrate here rather than from Haiti. However, the history of the United States is the history of migration into a new world of people from different places at different times. In the same way India was created as a democracy whose promise was that all of its citizens would be treated equally irrespective of religion, gender or status. But the Modi followers want to change the character of the country by making it a Hindu land. In this respect both Trump and Modi are on the same page going against the grain. Given this situation one has to be mindful that long after these two gentlemen are gone from power the impact of the damage they have done will continue to be felt. That is sad. It is also sad that the distinction between public good and private gain also is being unnecessarily blurred.


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