Frank Schell writes of President Trump’s visit to India “‘Namaste Trump’ will be long remembered symbolically by Indians.” He explains (abridged):
President Trump has just received a hero’s welcome from the people of the Republic of India. And with Trump’s affinity for direct negotiation at the chief executive level, the colorful pageantry of dancers, camels, and Mahatma Gandhi’s spinning wheel accorded to him by his Indian hosts fits well with the cult of personality, something very much evident throughout Indian history.
Thus far, Trump has announced the achievement of an arms deal for India of over $3 billion. It includes Apache attack helicopters and MH60 multi-mission helicopters and other equipment for the Indian military, in an effort to become what Trump said was “India’s premier defense partner.” The U.S. is already India’s No. 2 supplier of military equipment, after Russia, which still supplies 58 percent of India’s military hardware, but that has dropped substantially during the past five years.
President Trump is doing his best to continue a strategic friendship with India that has covered four U.S. administrations and three Indian ones. A common fear of China includes its dramatic rise as the world’s second-largest economy, its lack of commitment to a rules-based order, its military buildup and creation of tension in the South China Sea, and an aggressive Belt and Road Initiative to foster its hegemony. These are driving forces to bring the U.S. and India close together as partners.
“Namaste Trump” will be long remembered symbolically by Indians, like a successful presidential visit that leverages the cult of personality. With language, democracy, entrepreneurship, and a legal system in common, what our president may be saying in his emotional branding effort is this: “We like you — and are like you … and vice versa.”
Frank Schell is a business strategy consultant and former senior vice president of the First National Bank of Chicago. He was a lecturer at the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, and is a contributor of opinion pieces to various journals.
The American Spectator. February 25,2020
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