The spectacle put up at huge public expense by the Narendra Modi government to welcome President Donald Trump in Gujarat speaks volumes about the penchant for exhibitionism and the utter servility of the people in power towards the US. A most gross act was to construct a wall to hide a slum that fell on the route that Trump’s cavalcade followed. The Modi regime, instead of wiping out poverty, chose to hide poverty-stricken people out of sight to make a false impression on a visiting dignitary. The action is an affront to the dignity and poise of the people of India.
The splurge of public funds at a time when the Indian economy is going through an unprecedented slowdown is unacceptable. Even President Trump’s visit to the sacred Sabarmati Ashram, where in the visitors’ book he expressed thanks to Prime Minister Modi but failed to mention Mahatma Gandhi, whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated across the nation, was in contrast to the ethos and legacy of the Ashram: Sabarmati was the nursery of satyagraha and the nucleus of the freedom movement till 1930, the year of the epoch-making Salt Satyagraha. The chest-thumping and muscular mannerism that dominated the welcome accorded to President Trump in Gujarat constituted an affront to Gandhian grace and decency.
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The whole extravaganza made it appear that a lord and master was being welcomed by a serf. By any yardstick, India stood diminished in stature. Anyone with some sense of culture and civility would have felt embarrassed. Further, President Trump chose the soil of Gandhi’s Gujarat to announce that America will sell weapons, missiles and war planes worth billions of dollars to India. So patronising!
I am reminded of Gandhi’s own words. In 1936, he wrote: “When Americans come and ask me what service they could render, I tell them, if you dangle your millions before us, you will make beggars of us, and demoralise us. But in one thing I don’t mind being a beggar. You can ask your engineers and agricultural experts to place their services at our disposal. They must come to us not as lords and masters, but as voluntary workers.”
It is instructive that then President of India, K R Narayanan, quoted these words of Gandhi in his banquet speech when President Bill Clinton was visiting India. An Indian newspaper reported the elaborate manner in which the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee welcomed Clinton and commented that the round-the-clock effort to beautify Delhi for the American president gave the impression that the viceroy of India was visiting Delhi. President Narayanan also ticked off President Clinton. who had described the Indian subcontinent as a dangerous place and Kashmir as a potential theatre of nuclear war. Narayanan said: “These alarmist descriptions will only encourage those who want to break the peace and indulge in terrorism and violence. The danger is not from us who have declared solemnly that we will not be the first to use nuclear weapons; but rather it is from those who refuse to make any such commitment.”
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His upfront remarks that President Clinton was making alarmist statements prompted senior communist leader Hiren Mukherjee to say that President Narayanan was the only saving grace in a situation marked by an all out attempt to please President Clinton at the cost of India’s honour and dignity. There is no one like President Narayanan today to uphold the dignity of India and Indians.
Whatever the deals clinched between the US and India, Trump has succeeded in getting the Modi government to boost the American economy at a time when the Indian economy is in shambles. Now, Delhi has joined a global comprehensive strategic partnership with the US, thereby undermining India’s independent foreign policy.
We, the people of India, have to stand up to defend the country and its interests. That is the only hope for the future.
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The writer is general secretary, CPI