It may be tempting for official India to take seriously US President Donald Trump’s words of praise for India in his UN General Assembly speech on Tuesday, marked by intense self-praise, an unrestrained attack on Iran with which India has much to do, and scorning of “unaccountable global bureaucracy”, meaning the UN system.
Mr Trump’s remarks on India were of a general nature and didn’t refer to a particular period, but they may be taken as a sign of continuing US interest in India, though it’s hard to say anything with the Trump administration.
The US President called India a “free country” which has succeeded in bringing millions out of poverty. The others he praised are Saudi Arabia, Israel and North Korea, the nations he’s had his greatest success with in his highly controversial stewardship of the US since 2016. This is not the most glittering company to keep.
Underlining his so-called “America First” idea, Mr Trump said: “We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.” Seeing the two as separate categories is a characteristic of the chauvinist right, which the US President exemplifies, and for which he is widely excoriated at home. In India we have been familiar with a similar strain of thought in recent times.
Retreating into silos of narrow nationalism can’t hold much appeal for India, whose ambitions need global cooperation in trade and investments, technological exchanges, an overall exchange of ideas on peace, security and economic development, and an atmosphere free of political, military or other kinds of tension or rivalry.
With Mr Trump’s America, we can have a transactional relationship in our mutual interest. But his definition of the world and ours diverge.