Friday, 2 December, 2022
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How Narendra Modi cracked the Donald Trump code and turned the tide on Kashmir

The Biarritz meeting is important because it indicates a tactical shift in Indian foreign policy.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump have begun a beautiful new relationship on the margins of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, with Modi showing him the carrot of ramping up energy trade as an example of how things can only get better with the US.

India imports $4 billion worth of energy already and intends to do more, the PM told the US President, when he meets a variety of energy majors in Houston during his US visit next month.

The bait came before the two leaders met at the delegation-level talks the morning after the dinner at the Hôtel du Palais, which French President Macron threw for his guests. Trump began his remarks by calling Modi “an incredible man” and then in exactly three seconds, went on to add: “We’re talking about trade and we’re talking about military. We’re talking about many different things, and we’ve had some great discussions. We were together last night for dinner, and I learned a lot about India. Fascinating place. Beautiful place. And it’s an honor to be with you. A real honor,” Trump said.

This is the man who wanted to mediate on Kashmir, with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan standing next to him in the White House, barely a month ago.

So, what happened?

Also read: Modi must make sure Trump’s US doesn’t hyphenate India & Pakistan again

A shift in foreign policy

You don’t need a rocket scientist to tell you what happened – in any case, they are busy with the Chandrayaan’s moon landing. Modi cracked the transactional code that is at the heart of Donald Trump, which is that Money, Money, Money, makes the world go round.

It’s a wonder the PM and the ministry of external affairs didn’t see it before. Remember how the US agonised over a handful of Harley Davidsons that Trump wanted India to import at little or no tariffs, upon which Indian bureaucrats cut customs duty by 50 per cent, but of course that hardly pleased the US President?

Now, the Gujarati in Modi understands the value of cash & carry like few PMs before. Perhaps, the new pragmatic External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, pointed out to the PM that India should take a leaf out of China’s book – discover the weaknesses of your enemy and embrace them.

In Trump’s case, it’s trade. He strongly feels that ‘we’re the bank that everybody wants to rob’ and that America’s unnecessary generosity has earned it a $800 billion trade deficit with various countries.

So when Modi’s bureaucrats did some tinkering with the Harley Davidson duties which, for Trump, became emblematic of the relationship, and Modi followed up by thumbing his nose in Trump’s face by buying $5.2 billion worth of Russian S-400 systems, the US president came down heavily on India and ordered the withdrawal of special trade benefits immediately after Modi was sworn in for the second time.

The Biarritz meeting is important because it indicates a tactical shift in Indian foreign policy. Trump is too powerful to be antagonised, so he must be managed. Remember that Xi Jinping is breathing down your neck next door. Also, he’s coming to India in October. A perception reversal of the increasingly troubled India-US relationship was in order.

Also read: A year ago, PM Imran Khan promised Naya Pakistan but gave a series of embarrassments

The worst paper tiger

Modi has the best luck of course, in the form of Imran Khan. Over the last 24 hours, Khan has implicitly threatened to use nuclear weapons, a nightmare the world dealt with on a daily basis in 1999 during Kargil, and later in 2001-2002 during Operation Parakram.

It was so bad during Parakram, in fact, that the US, the UK and Japanese diplomats evacuated their families from Delhi and sent them home – all to tell India to behave and act responsibly now that it was a nuclear power.

But Khan is turning out to be the worst kind of paper tiger – one with no striped nuance – under the complete control of army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who’s tenure just got extended.

The Pakistan bomb was supposed to be an “Islamic bomb” that A.Q. Khan and other Pakistani scientists stole from the western labs in defence of the Ummah. But just look at what the UAE has done? It has awarded Modi the Order of Zayed, its highest civilian honour – a long necklace, diamonds and all – and the truth is that where the UAE goes, Saudi Arabia goes too. Mohammad bin Salman, the 33-year-old crown prince, considers the UAE ruler his guru – even as he throws a few million dirhams at the former Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif, currently heading the Saudi Arabia-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition.

Imran Khan Monday told his fellow countrymen and women that every Friday, from 12-12.30 pm, they must stop whatever they’re doing and come out to “express solidarity” with the “people of Kashmir”.

The Pakistanis, all those who voted for him because they wanted to or were forced/persuaded to do so, are thunderstruck. They are probably wondering how much worse it can get.

This week’s foreign policy masterstroke must belong to the PM. He has, at least for the moment, turned the international tide on Kashmir, with a mix of temptation, persuasion and plain-speak.

As for what’s happening inside Kashmir, well, that’s another story.

Also read: Is PM Modi allowing Trump to play policeman in India-Pakistan tensions over Kashmir?


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  1. One Wonders How Much Money Do Leftists/Communists & Print Get From Pakistan/China Or The CIA For The Last Sentence??!!

    One Wonders Where Anti India Brigade Will Live If They Hamper Indian Success??!! Have They Not Seen How Refugees Run From Pillar To Post For A Piece Of Land They Can Call Their Own;))??!!

  2. I do believe he’s done remarkably well outside. I’ll also grant him some innovative schemes within. And, although I’ve belonged to those who have criticized him on several issue that primarily relate to right-wing non-reactions of things he should have condemned, I cannot not give him credit for things gone well

  3. I think we are cheering a bit prematurely. That our Prime Minister has had to give a clarification, if only to reiterate the point that Kashmir is a bilateral issue, in front of th e world press in an international forum, bears testimony to the fact that our neighbour has gained traction in internationalizing the issue. Our PM had to mention that he has got the issues in J&K under control . Now all eyes would be on how soon he can normalize the situation there. This could be a a bit more difficult than it looks. Pakistan on its part will try and keep the pot boiling to further focus the attention on the subverted human rights conditions.

  4. Jyoti’s sting is in the last sentence of her article. Without this, this article would not be published in ThePrint!! Rest of the article is just a narrative of events and does not add up to anything.

  5. One week Modi is brilliant next week he is immature… I think author should take a nuanced long term view rather than abrupt ad hoc conclusions

  6. Were it not for the shipping costs, India could stop buying oil and gas from the Middle East, source its entire requirement from the US.

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