Were we duped by Donald?

It’s been 100 days with Donald J Trump as the 45th President of the United States (POTUS) — a 100 very long days. And while there’s much debate/discussion on the achievements of the orangish president with huge hands across the world — right from his travel ban on Muslims to his dropping bombs on Muslim countries — the Indian state seems to have been caught in a Catch-22 situation. You see, Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman, had raised many hopes of a recharged Indo-US strategic relationship. He Trump Duped India_5claimed himself to be a fan of Hindus, an admirer of Modi, not to mention his takes in Indian real estate market, all these pointed to a rosy future.

But 100 days on, there seems to have been little movement on the ‘dosti’ front. The US continues to be ambivalent on India, there has not been much change in the relationship, be it on the economic or political front. So, the big question is whether India should celebrate the 100 days of President Trump or just clutch its head in despair, like much else of the world is doing?

India-US Bhai-Bhai?

Much as people would like to believe, India has never had a real good “Howdee Pardner” kind of a relationship US. The last time an Indian premier had a great thing going on with the US leadership was when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was in office and Jackie Kennedy was in the house, the Whitehouse. But then, Nehruji took a left turn and went all gooey with the Babushka lady from the North. And so, the subsequent American presidents were either ignorant or unsure of India. Also, the fact that our enemy-number-numero-uno (Pakistan, in case you forgot) just happened to forge a strategic tie-up with the Americans against the Hammer-Sickle alliance in Afghanistan, worked much against us. So, while our ageing Mig 21s, and 22s kept flying into the ground (oft times with the pilots still strapped within), the Pakistanis would somehow manage to procure a whole squadron of F16s that too, paid with American aid. Can anyone beat that?

In fact, the US-Paki bromance had reached such a level, that when India had to intervene to stop the genocide in East Pakistan (Bangladesh now), the mighty Seventh Fleet had set sail for the Indian Ocean to aid the beleaguered Pakis. Luckily for India, a tipsy Yahya Khan was the president of Pakistan and took them to their eventual defeat. But the fact remains, the Americans were on the Paki side on this one.

History is replete with instances of how the Americans have not really loved us. Right from Trump Duped India_6denying a place in the security council, to imposing economic sanctions after the nuclear tests; caught between the love of Islamabad and the scepticism of Beijing, New Delhi seemed to have mattered very less. In fact, between the years of 1978-2000, there was not a single US presidential visit to India, from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton.

And if our dalliance with the Soviets were not enough, our wily Chinese neighbours were no less. As the economic and military might of Beijing increased, the American was forced to choose the dragon over the tiger. Back in 1965, when the Chinese had attacked India, the Kennedy administration had even contemplated using the nuclear option against the Chinese. Apparently, in one of the meetings, President Kennedy had stated: “We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India.” By the turn of the century, the Americans had to apologize to Beijing to secure the release of a pilot that had been shot down while flying a spy plane over China. That’s how dramatic, the shift was post the Great Leap Forward under Mao Zedong that turned China into an economic powerhouse. The Chinese with their manufacturing might had turned the tables on India. The Great Wall kind of dictated the way US dealt with us.

There was a little thaw in the Indo-US relationship in the 90s though, with the collapse of the USSR and India’s economic liberalisation. With the global MNCs finding a large market opportunity in India, Uncle Sam suddenly seem to be aware of the country’s existence.  But even so, India was never the most favoured nation, say the way the Chinese or the Pakis were. Continue reading

I lived in the time of Obama

There is little doubt in my mind that in the coming years when I grow old and haggard and sit down for a chat with my grandchildren telling about all the things that I have witnessed in my lifetime, November 4th 2008 and January 20th 2009 will be two important dates.  I will mention the fact that the biggest and the most powerful nation of my time, for the first time ever achieved what it used to proudly proclaim, liberty and equality. It took nation some 232 years to finally deliver the promise it had made. By becoming the 44th president of the United States of America, Barrack Hussein Obama has finally proved that the nation is one of dreamers and achievers, not of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, or Mormons. Today the White House in Washington, DC, is no more just a white’s house.

Surely, my grandchildren will wonder as to what was so great about an African American becoming a president, when there were a huge number of Black Americans in USA. With a benign smile, I will tell them of the class struggles, how the Blacks or African Americans were niggers in the past. How through the ages, slave traders from Spain and Britain used to capture innocent people from Africa and make them lead a despicable existence in some farm. I will divulge how in spite of all tall claims of modernity, the American society was very much fractured on the basis of colour, though it might appear otherwise. I will give examples of rampant discrimination in every form, be it schools, colleges, workplaces, restaurants and even public transportation, talking about the life in ghettos, full of crime and penury.  I will also tell them about an incident that I had known about the race riots in America, after a Black (Rodney King, hopefully) was mercilessly battered by a few White cops.

In this context, I will paint Obama as a bigger hero than he was.  I will proudly boast of how I was in the US when the elections results were declared and how I witnessed the frenzy. Even as I talk, I will reach for my cupboard and from therein I will pull out yellowing copies of SF Chronicle and NYT dated November 3 and 4th, 2008. I will also show off the round pin-up batches of Obama campaign that I had picked up from an old vendor from San Francisco, with a small American star and stripe flag. I will preen about those days, reminiscing about how the entire world was completely wonderstruck and joyous about a Black Democrat being the President of the USA.

And then, I will tell about January 20th 2009, when Obama took the oath of office in front of millions of individuals that had thronged the White House.  I will briefly mention the whole ceremony, and also tell them of how Obama spoke to the world at large from the podium.  I don’t think I will be able to tell much about what he spoke, since his speech was not up to the historic moment.  Even now when I think of it, there is little that I can recall about his speech, it was just like the hundreds he has made over the past year or more. I will rue in front of my grand kids of how I sat in front of the television, waiting for every word from his lip, hoping that he will touch my chords, make me proud of this moment, reassure that course of history has been corrected, paint a picture of beautiful and equal future and how Obama did noting of that.  I will give them the example of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech on India’s freedom, “at the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps..”.

Hopefully, I will have a lot more to tell my grand kids about Obama and how his presidency was vastly different from the rest, that he was not merely a Black or an African American President but a great one and that he might have made history by becoming the supreme commander, but he left a bigger mark on history as the supreme commander.

Just in case, my memory fails when I am older, I will read this post written on that historic night of January 20th, and then ask my grand kids to gather around me and tell them the story of a certain Obama and how I lived in his times.