NEW YORK, NY: Yours truly burst into laughter as he encountered this telling headline in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) column: “Howdy, Modi!” and Goodbye Growth.
The fetching title referenced a rally organized on Sunday, September 22 in Houston, Texas by the ‘Texas India Forum’, intended to kill two birds with one stone: buttering up American President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the latter began his annual U.S-U.N diplomatic pilgrimage!
A fitting Texan touch was applied by the cheery “Howdy, Modi” cowboy salutation. The event, preceded by a publicity drive, was flagged off under this syrupy banner: ‘Shared Dreams, Bright Future’. While it was not difficult to understand the seductive attraction of the Houston love-fest for the two concerned champions of political braggadocio, on closer scrutiny, one wondered whether the not insignificant funds invested for that Texan tamasha, or extravaganza, was really worth it.
For one thing, consider how Alisha Haridasani Gupta reported all this in her ‘Monday Briefs’ in the New York Times (NYT). Having stated, rather off-handedly, that the Houston rally boosted U.S. – India friendship, she then went on to point out:
“Economic tensions have worsened the economic situation in India. Sales of cars, houses and even biscuits are down, the rupee’s value has plunged and layoffs are piling up. Mr. Modi’s recent decision to revoke the autonomy of Kashmir is casting a shadow on his big U.S. trip and possibly on his speech of Friday in the U.N. General Assembly.” Wow!
A much more sophisticated critique was proferred by WJC’s columnist, Sadananda Dhume, who had this to opine: “If Mr. Modi’s domestic policies are any indication, he appears not to truly grasp the basis of the Indian-American’s success. They have thrived because America is based on principles that encourage it: a belief in free enterprise, an embrace of diversity and a meritocratic culture. On Mr. Modi’s watch, India has regressed on all three fronts….
“Mr. Modi deserves credit for grasping the impatience of Indian Americans as an example to emulate. But unless he re-examines his policies, the applause at “Howdy, Modi!” won’t change the reality that many people are choosing to say, “Goodbye, India.”
Though not directly related to the above, methinks Shashi Tharoor touched upon a very seminal point when, in his celebrated recent essay, ‘India’s democratic dictatorship’, he drew attention to and lamented Modi’s proclivity to promote ‘fervent nationalism’ while battering communal relations in the process.
We Nepalese need no reminder that Indians love chauvinist political leaders – which, of course, explains India’s rejection of Nepal’s Zone of Peace proposal of the 1970s; her past three blockades against Nepal; her support to the Maoists and others in toppling the monarchy; and the flagrant interventionist role her intelligence agencies in Nepal’s domestic realm.
Incidentally, Modi’s penchant to thump his chest in the conduct of foreign/security policy was recently pin-pointed – in particular “since Modi’s revocation the special status of India-controlled Kashmir” – and roundly lambasted by Beijing’s Global Times’s Shi Tian, who advised, “India should give up its contradictory China policies.”
The crux of that opinion piece was thus explained: “Modi’s policies are contradictory. His administration is loath to give up its cooperative relations with China, on the one hand, but does not stop inciting nationalism against China. Such a paradox can never be sustainable.”
There have, of late, been plenty of noteworthy developments relating to American politics, the pace of which seems to have visibly picked up as the date of the Democratic nomination draws ever closer.
There are copious indications that the number of interested presidential candidates seeking nomination of the Democratic party will erode quite significantly; the latest dropout was the Mayor of New York, Bill Di Blasio.
That apart, a dramatic development was that Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren for the first time topped the popularity poll for Democrats with 22%, overtaking, for the first time, former Vice President Joe Biden’s poll figure: 20%.
Incidentally, a keen reporter’s legitimate question to Biden about the nature of his son’s business dealings in Ukraine in the past was rudely rebuffed by Biden – I thought, uncharacteristically. He then recovered enough of his political wits to not only suggest that the media concentrate on improprieties of the president but also to affirm that he would “beat him like a drum!”
Elsewhere, a political firestorm has erupted with a whistleblower from the intelligence community formally charging Trump of pressuring via a phone call in July to Ukrainian President Volodynyr Zelonsky demanding that he institute a corruption investigation against Biden’s son, Hunter, in dealings the latter had in Ukraine when his father was vice-president.
While the furor triggering demands that the transcript be forwarded to Congress was rejected outright by Trump and his chief advisers, there has been a visible spurt in the slowly increasing clamor in the Democratic camp for initiating the complex impeachment process against Trump.
Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for long most loath to hurriedly rush down the impeachment path, has begun to hint that the time for that may have now come.
EYES ON U.N.
With the United Nations General Assembly just about to begin, it is natural that more than casual attention should be focused thereon.
Some 90 heads of state/government/foreign ministers will be participating. While some 600 meetings will be held during the entire General Assembly this year, the highlight will, as usual, be the first five full days of plenary speeches by dignitaries.
Though one doubts if any progress will be made as far as resolving the world’s most urgent issues are considered, this year, who is not participating is perhaps more suggestive of the state of international affairs than who is.
They include: President Xi Jinping of China, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel; President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, President Hassan Rahouni of Iran – and, Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Oli!