FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Modi and Trump: When the Titans of Hate Politics Meet

Photo by Presidencia de la Repúblic | CC BY 2.0

India’s Narendra Modi is back in Washington, DC. In India, the prime minister is known for his travels around the world. He is rarely home. No amount of chaos in the country, not even the epidemic of violence against oppressed castes and Muslims by lynch mobs, could keep Mr Modi home. He has more important concerns than the turmoil experienced by his citizens.

Meeting US President Donald Trump is an important sign of being a world leader. Modi’s base – which sees him as a strong man – is enamoured by the idea of their leader sitting with Trump. After all, they are both strong men who have nothing but contempt for weakness. Both easily shrug off domestic chaos. Both leave details to others to care for. They see themselves as visionaries, as a new breed of nationalists who represent the hatred of large sections of their citizenry. It is hate that brought them both to power. It is hate that anchors their agenda.

For nine years – from 2005 to 2014 – Modi was banned from entering the United States. Allegations of his complicity in the 2002 pogroms against Muslims in his home state of Gujarat drew a sharp response from the US government. It decided to deny him a visa, a policy that was overturned when Modi became prime minister.

He visited the US in 2014 and had a private dinner with then US President Barack Obama at the White House. It was full-scale rehabilitation. Modi then returned each year – holding a public meeting at Facebook’s headquarters in 2015 and addressing a joint session of the US Congress in 2016. The current visit is his fourth since he won the Indian general election in 2014.

Both Obama and Trump have been eager to fete Modi. They have recognised that in the current political climate in India, he and his political party – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – are going to be around for a while and will perhaps win the 2019 elections as well. From the US perspective, Modi has to be engaged, so the allegations of his complicity in the Gujarat riots are irrelevant. Pragmatism means that morality can be set aside.

The politics of hate and the economy of weapons

Not only do Modi and Trump lead movements anchored in hate, but they also appeal to an old-fashioned form of nationalism. Both tell their people that policies are all about getting the best deal possible. And this is where both men will face problems. Despite all the warm words about a new Indo-US arrangement over the past two decades, great divergences exist over actual policies.

Indian governments since 1991 sold out their agrarian sector to US-based agro-businesses, leading to great agrarian distress. The subsequent financial pressure on small farms and various environmental catastrophes led to more than 300,000 farmers committing suicide.

The pushback against these gifts to US agro-business means that Modi cannot bend further to please the Trump administration’s trade ambitions. Nor would Modi’s Make In India initiative go well with a long-standing US desire to open India’s markets to US retail giants such as Walmart.

Modi would like to do all he can to please the Americans, but he would be met with a million mutinies within his own governing bloc if he does so. Nationalism is a curious device. It can easily give you votes, but it also raises the expectations of your voters.

But what Modi can do for Trump is buy more US weapons. India is the world’s largest importer of weapons, while the US is the world’s largest seller of weapons.

It is of course a vulgarity that India – where 50 percent of the population lives in deprivation – spends so much of its budget on weapons. But today it is how the government chooses its priorities – ignoring the pressing needs of its population in order to service Western arms dealers.

Nationalism is no enemy to defence spending. Just before Modi’s trip to the US, his government sealed a deal to buy 22 US Predator drones at a price of $2bn. Trump surely liked that. He likes to brag about such deals. That it will be the impoverished Indian population paying for it is irrelevant to both heads of state. How 22 drones will help alleviate poverty is something that no reporter could have asked them at their joint news conference. Such a question would have been too vulgar.

But apart from this arms deal that came before Modi arrived in the US, little else was accomplished during Modi’s visit.

During his meeting with Trump, Modi avoided explaining how his protectionist policies would accommodate balancing the trade deficit between the US and India. Trump, on the other hand, dodged the question on pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, which Modi so adamantly supports.

The two men – pickled in the politics of hate – got to know one another and nothing more.

There was a great deal of back-slapping, mutual praise and displays of machismo. There was a great deal of bragging and making big promises.

This is something that Modi and Trump share: empty rhetoric delivered with no care that policies will not follow. Drama is everything. Publicity matters the most.

This article originally appeared in Al Jazeera.

More articles by:

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
Paul Street
The Dismal Dollar Dems and the Subversion of Democracy
Dave Lindorff
Conviction and Removal Aren’t the Issue; It’s Impeachment of Trump That is Essential
Ron Jacobs
Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six
Linda Pentz Gunter
Why Do We Punish the Peacemakers?
Louis Proyect
Michael Bloomberg and Me
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold
Joseph Natoli
What We Must Do
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Global Poison Spring
Robert Fantina
Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?
Charles McKelvey
A Theory of Truth From the South
Walden Bello
How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True
Evan Jones
BNP Before a French Court
Norman Solomon
Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War
Torsten Bewernitz – Gabriel Kuhn
Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: From Banja Luka to Sarajevo
Thomas Knapp
NATO is a Brain Dead, Obsolete, Rabid Dog. Euthanize It.
Forrest Hylton
Bolivia’s Coup Government: a Far-Right Horror Show
M. G. Piety
A Lesson From the Danes on Immigration
Ellen Isaacs
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
Monika Zgustova
Chernobyl, Lies and Messianism in Russia
Manuel García, Jr.
From Caesar’s Last Breath to Ours
Binoy Kampmark
Going to the ICJ: Myanmar, Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Gamble
Jill Richardson
Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”
Muzamil Bhat
Srinagar’s Shikaras: Still Waters Run Deep Losses
Gaither Stewart
War and Betrayal: Change and Transformation
Farzana Versey
What Religion is Your Nationalism?
Clark T. Scott
The Focus on Trump Reveals the Democrat Model
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Do Bernie’s Supporters Know What “Not Me, Us” Means? Does Bernie?
Peter Harley
Aldo Leopold, Revisited
Winslow Myers
A Presidential Speech the World Needs to Hear
Christopher Brauchli
The Chosen One
Jim Britell
Misconceptions About Lobbying Representatives and Agencies
Ted Rall
Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does
Mel Gurtov
Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the Insecurity of China’s Leadership
Nicky Reid
Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard and the Slow Death of the Democratic Delusion
Tom H. Hastings
Cross-Generational Power to Change
John Kendall Hawkins
1619: The Mighty Whitey Arrives
Julian Rose
Why I Don’t Have a Mobile Phone
David Yearsley
Parasitic Sounds
Elliot Sperber
Class War is Chemical War
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail