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Trump’s India Visit: An Optical Illusion in a Fool’s Paradise


Politics makes strange bedfellows. Political interests often bring people together, who otherwise have little in common. Nowhere it is more obvious than Modi-Trump relationship. This saying is adapted from a line in the play The Tempest, by William Shakespeare: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” It is spoken by a man who has been shipwrecked and finds himself seeking shelter beside a sleeping monster. This is the exact case of India’s Prime Minister, captaining a shipwrecked Indian economy, Indian currency demonetization debacle, nationwide political unrests over Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and ethnic tensions over Babri Masjid verdict are being presented as the “Rising India, Shining India.”

This strange partnership posits on each leader giving the other some scoring points in front of their people and hardcore supporters who can be easily mesmerized by simple tricks without being bothered to scratch below the surface. In simple words, it’s a prefixed dog and pony show where people will be the losers.

Mr. Trump is going on a trade war with India, and Indians are rolling out the red carpet to welcome him. Trump will visit India on February 24, 25. On February 10, U.S. removed India from the list of developing nations to a developed one, disregarding the bare minimum criteria Gross National Income, or rise in other social indicators, such as healthcare and education.

For what its worth, this is a huge spinning point for Modi’s propaganda machine to fool Indian public into believing that finally under Modi’s rule India have achieved its true place in the world – “Rising India, Shining India.” It is anything but that. When U.S. removes any country from its developing nations list. It benefits none, except U.S.

As explained by an online journal, the wire, “What does the classification mean? The United States used to group India in the category of developing nations. However, at the behest of president Donald Trump, the member countries were shuffled. Trump ‘explained’ why in a tweet last year: “…so that countries stop CHEATING the system at the expense of the USA!”

It means more money for U.S. in terms of collecting duties.

Trump has removed India from “preferential trade program” which gives developing nations a chance to trade with the world’s largest market on favourable terms. India no longer qualifies for that. It will cost Indian business more to export in terms of duties and will further impact India’s fledgling economy negatively. However, the average Indian is clueless about these facts as to how their own government is undermining their own interests and are being led to celebrations.

National Herald India in its February 18, 2020 edition reported “Former BJP ally Shiv Sena slammed the move by the US to take India off the list of developing nations. In its mouthpiece, Saamana, the party said, "All the subsidies and benefits which India was getting would not be there now. Whenever a guest visits, he brings some gifts as a token of love, but President Trump broke the tradition. While India is preparing itself to welcome Trump, America has removed India from the list of developing countries. This is a big blow to our economy. With India on the list of developing countries, there used to be subsidies and tax benefits. Now, there will be nothing."

This is precisely what Trump did. A week after removing India from “developing nations” list, National Herald India headline read, “Trump imposes a $260 million penalty on India on the eve of his visit.”

According to the data from the United States Trade Representative's (USTR) office, India is the largest beneficiary nation under the GSP, with total benefits from tariff exemptions amounting to $260 million in 2018.

Mr. Modi was hoping for trade agreements windfall between India and U.S. when Trump visits next week. Where in fact, Mr. Trump has taken off his gloves and is prepared to fight India on same level field as it is fighting U.S. – China trade war. Recall, what Mr. Trump said about China before going on a trade warpath with China. Well, Mr. Trump used the exact same vocabulary this week, “We're not treated very well by India, saving big trade deal for later, says Trump ahead of visit” reported India’s largest English dailies, India Today.
Meanwhile, Trump dangled some carrots of future trade deals, but he “does not know” if it will be done before the November presidential elections. "We can have a trade deal with India. But I'm really saving the big deal for later," Trump told reporters. This also allows Trump to get the Indian Americans voting for Trump to get some reward for the motherland if Trump is re-elected.  

Beyond hugs and handshakes Trump has placed India in the same basket as China when it comes to trade war. Trump needs this to show to the American public how he is tackling the trade deficit, and nations cheating America on duties – Making America Great Again. However, what Trump is not telling American public that import from India will cost more, and the businesses are going to pass the additional duties to the consumers.

The Modi government on the other hand is being equally callous and self-preserving. Modi does not care what will happen to Indian economy or Indian public, with rising duties placed on Indian exports by the U.S. if he gets a trophy to claim of making India a developed nation to fool his own people.

According to Times of India, “Suicides due to poverty up by 162% in Gujarat, unemployment by 21% in 2018.”

According to National Crime Records Board of India, in 2018, in Ahmedabad alone there were 318 accidental deaths and suicides related to poverty. Meanwhile, Mr. Modi has built the world’s largest Cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, which can hold 100,000 people that will be inaugurated by Mr. Trump during his visit.

Modi has promised Trump that 7 million Indians will be welcoming him on both sides of the roads when he arrives. Meanwhile, the road out of the Ahmedabad Airport on both sides have slums. Walls are being erected on both sides of the airport road, and thousands of slum dwellers have been issued eviction notices to clear the way and hide the abject poverty in India.

Welcome to Modi’s India, a Fools Paradise.