By M.R. Josse
NEW YORK, NY: While back home, attention has focused on the upcoming Bada Dasain rituals and festivities and, in the People’s Republic of China, on the pageantry marking the 70th anniversary of its founding, October 1, 1949, not considerable global media attention is directed at the seemingly never-ending Hong Kong turmoil.
Political types in Nepal seem largely preoccupied at the implications of the puzzlingly abbreviated visit to Kathmandu of President Xi Jinping – and that he will be dropping in only after a more substantial trip to India.
However, here, South Asian attention has been directed at the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan – in particular, at the attention they received in the U.S. or U.N.
Having browsed some of the hyper-ventilated, syrupy reportage in the Indian press of the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, I will dwell on some curiosities that have been conspicuously missing from such blinkered coverage.
KHAN AND MODI
For starters, let me mention that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan got greater overall coverage, perhaps because Modi’s draconian clampdown in Kashmir overturned the past pro-India bias in America built on the enduring myth of India as a shining champion of democracy, tolerance and human rights.
New York Times’ editors found sympathetic coverage for Khan’s lament of the world’s indifference to civilian suffering in Kashmir, as a result of India’s ruthless military campaign. Addressing them, he explained his apprehensions of an impending genocide and stressed that people “do not seem to understand that this can go horribly wrong.”
In keeping with that line of thought, days later Khan made an impassioned speech at the U.N. General Assembly where, among other things, he provided a brief but graphic backgrounder of the RSS underpinnings of the BJP, likening the BJP to Hitler’s brown shirt and Mussolini’s black shirt fascist movements.
His address, incidentally, drew frequent applause from delegates – a relatively rare happening, as I know from personal experience. Khan’s evocation of the possibility of “a bloodbath” in Kashmir was particularly chilling, while his reminder there could be no winners in a nuclear conflict was sobering indeed.
Incidentally, President Donald Trump, at a press conference enumerating the highlights of his one day’s activities at the United Nations, specifically mentioned that he had met and held discussions with “my good friends, the prime ministers of Pakistan and India” – yes, in that order!
Most illuminating, too, was an opinion piece in the New York Times (September 27) by Sabah Hamid, a former program officer for communications with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in New Delhi, under this explicit title: Why I Quit the Gates Foundation. Excerpts:
“The Gates Foundation has chosen to celebrate a single initiative of Mr. Modi’s government. It has completely disregarded how his politics has filled the lives of marginalized communities in India and the territories it controls with fear and insecurity, let alone that he has transformed India into a majoritarian, Hindu national state…Mr. Modi does not deserve to be embraced.
“The celebration of Mr. Modi by an organization that stands for the betterment of the most vulnerable cannot be justified. If powerful, non-profit organizations endorse such polarizing politicians, then who speaks for the vulnerable and neglected?” Hamid describes himself as a Kashmiri.
Let me now quote Indian Express’ veteran journalist, Tavleen Singh about Indian TV coverage of Modi’s visit, dubbed “more like propaganda than journalism.”
She opines: “I feel bad admitting that the TV coverage of the Howdy Modi tour has made me more than slightly ashamed…When I tried to anlayse why there had been such humiliating hysteria in reporting of Howdy Modi, I noticed it was mostly to show that India’s leader had been better received than the leader of Pakistan. So eager were reporters to prove this that they even compared the size of the carpets laid on the tarmac…”
Events have erupted fast and furious on the American political scene since the previous column saw light of day. They are so convoluted they defy a lucid or easy summary. But here goes:
In the main, Trump’s once triumphant White House is currently seriously grappling with how best to deal with the growing Ukraine scandal, even as the Democrats, smelling the first whiff of victory down the road, launch their impeachment inquiry and are set to not only demand depositions from many prime witnesses, including Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, but House Democrats subpoena Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani for documents, as part of their investigation to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Vice President Joe Biden.
Giuliani has been asked to handover communications regarding U.S. foreign assistance to Ukraine and any efforts to withhold or delay it.
Observers monitoring the twists and turns in the fiercely churning, turbid political maelstrom briefly traced above are fascinated to mull over how Ukraine got tangled up in a Trump impeachment inquiry, specially the manner in his telephone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 5 thrust Ukraine into the international limelight.
While the future promises to be chock-a-block with umpteen surprises, in the meantime one can do no better than chew some cud over this query: will there be a formal impeachment, or, if it fizzles out, what its impact will be on the 2020 presidential election?
If it does not – as it does seems likely with the Republicans in control of the Senate – will Trump be a shoo-in? If it succeeds, with Vice President Mike Pence become a president in his own right?
Would a successful attempt favor Senator Elizabeth Warren or Vice-President Biden, or will Biden be toppled from his currently perceived position as top contender?
How should the world outside the United States – specially the part that receives American aid – view American aid, and the aid negotiating process in future?
However you slice this, will America’s global prestige be the same? I doubt it.