Embarrassing Moments from Trump’s Visit to India

Donald Trump abroad never ceases to entertain with his ignorance and misstatements. As India’s leaders learned from Trump’s previous visits to Saudi Arabia and China, all it takes is pomp and circumstance to get this president’s favorable remarks. Here are a few gems from his just-concluded visit:

“Someone said it was greatest greeting ever given to any head of state of any country.” Shades of the inauguration. As the Times referenced, President Eisenhower was greeted by about a million people during a state visit. And at a packed stadium for a speech, video shows Indians leaving in droves while Trump droned on.

“We did talk about religious freedom, and I will say that the prime minister — it was incredible what he told me. He wants people to have religious freedom, and very strongly.”

Religious freedom? As he said this, smoke was rising from nearby street fighting between Muslims and Hindus that resulted in the deaths of at least 13 people.

Memo to Trump: Review Modi’s efforts to turn India into a Hindu state under a new citizenship law that would potentially deport millions of Muslims.

“They have really worked hard on religious freedom. We talked about it for a long time, and I really believe that’s what he wants.” As with Putin when he assures Trump that Russia has never interfered in US elections, Trump is ready to believe fellow autocrats rather than bother with evidence. Doing so is calculated: Trump wants something in return, and with India it’s a big trade deal. Which leads to the next point.

“We think we’re at a point where our relationship is so special with India, it has never been as good as it is now. We feel very strongly about each other, and we have done something that is very unique.”

But nothing “very unique” happened, as Trump later acknowledged: “We’re being charged large amounts of tariffs, and they can’t do that. I want reciprocal. The United States has to be treated fairly.”

Well, there you have it: he wants reciprocal. (Ignore the English, as usual.) This astounding friendship, it turns out, has its limits—just like the love affair with Kim Jong-un, or Rodrigo Duterte, or Xi Jinping.

This president, who knows nothing about India and cares only about doing a trade deal did have time to tweet attacks on the objectivity of Supreme Court justices RGB and Sotomayor. I guess his mind was elsewhere.

Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.