If the tone of our media reports is any indication, the reception accorded to prime minister Narendra Modi on Sunday at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, was marvelous and historic. The 'Howdy Modi' event was attended by at least 50,000 out of the 4 million Indians living in the USA. The media celebrated the fact that President Donald Trump not only shared the dais with Modi, and listened to the prime minister's thirty-minute speech but also joined the applause of the thousands gathered there.
Prime minister Modi set out to New York to address the UN General Assembly, with a hero's image after having won a second term with the spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha election, and more recently having abrogated the constitutional special status of Jammu & Kashmir thus giving a snub to arch-foe Pakistan. With Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan also having reached America, the general impression created is that by getting Trump beside him on such an occasion, Modi was able to impress India's position on the president of the United States, traditionally viewed as an obliging patron of Pakistan. If Modi made a passing mention of terrorism by saying that everyone knows who worked behind the terrorist attacks in New York's World Trade Centre and in Mumbai, Trump mentioned 'Islamist terrorists' by name and expressed his solidarity with Indian prime minister on the issue. And then by coining a slogan for 'the next turn for Trump government', Modi also lent strength to Trump's campaign as candidate for the coming US presidential election.
The opposition Congress party was quick to react to Modi's mention of Trump's contest saying that it is a departure from India's time-honoured convention of not interfering with the internal affairs of another country, but BJP dismisses the charge only as a response born of envy. Such a display of affinity was nothing surprising for those who observe the concurrence of thoughts of the Trump-Modi-Netanyahu trio and the US-Israel-India collaboration. True, the recent global phenomenon of strengthening of radical rightist forces has been disturbing peace-loving and humanitarian sections, but there is no point in not seeing it as an unpleasant reality.
All the same time, the protest demonstration held in front of the NRG Statium by thousands including Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Sikh participants, serves to prove that the voice of democratic forces in support of peace and human rights is still active everywhere. The protest was organized by groups like Hindus for Human Rights, Muslim Council, Organization for Minorities of India, Jewish Voice for Peace and Black Lives Matter.
The real stances of Trump - who took part in the Houston gathering aiming at the votes of Indian-born Americans - towards India also merits review in the context. In his first election campaign in 2016, he had alleged that Indian-origin Americans were snatching the jobs of Americans. And when he addressed the Howdy Modi audience, there was not even the slightest indication of having softened this stance towards Indians. On the trade front, he alleged that India was imposing huge tariffs on US products based on which he raised US tariffs on Indian products imported into America. Further, he also removed the most favoured nation status of India.
So far, Trump has not corrected any of these steps that adversely affect India. Nor has he given any assurance to Modi that he would retrace them. Then one may wonder what use is the verbal expression of friendship. Above all , despite Modi's reiterations that Kashmir is India's internal affair and India cannot allow a third force interfering in that, Trump, in an apparent sop to the visiting Pak prime minister Imran Khan, stated again that he was ready to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. It is to be noted that this has been a long-time demand raised by Pakistan - and raised twice by Trump earlier. And once he even went to the extent of saying that this was what Narendra Modi had suggested to him.
Although India had denied that report, Trump has not made a substantiive correction in the core of that statement. And the next day Trump himself termed Modi's Houston speech as 'very aggressive'. The US president, who said that his predecessors had treated Pakistan very badly, also added that he trusted Pakistan. In short, however fervently our national media may celebrate the Modi-Trump meetings, what can be inferred from recent events is that t more effective moves may be needed to steer US stances more in favour of India.