Given the complexity and long duration of the transition, a well-defined policy framework, "is required to develop a transition policy along the lines suggested in certain sections of the Mines Act, 1952,” a top official said.
At multiple levels, minor and major, President Donald Trump’s visit to India breached new and significant ground. No fruits yet such as a trade deal, but a crucial tree of special mutual goodwill has been planted that can yield benefits across generations. The challenge is ensuring India’s foreign policy thinktank does not muff it to push Indo-US equations back to square one. In keeping with the new Indo-US “connect”, US First Lady Melania Trump on Friday, 28 February, through an unusual series of seven tweets expressed how she was “inspired” by the ‘Happiness Curriculum’ at the Sarvodaya School in New Delhi, during her visit to India.
In 72 hours after the visit, she and her husband shared more social media posts about their India state visit than they had after visiting any another country – 110 tweets on the India trip from the Presidential, White House and Trump’s personal twitter accounts. Americans too have been impressed, many expressing gratitude to India for giving their President a welcome no world leader has received in any country – perhaps not since the Camelot days of the charismatic and tragic John F Kennedy. My guess is India has earned another 100,000 new tourists from the US, just on the basis of social media coverage of the US president’s visit to India.
“Melania and I have been awed by the majesty of India and the exceptional kindness and generosity of the Indian people,” President Trump said in a 55-second video already viewed 1.2 million times. “We are at a point where our relationship with India is so special it has never been as good as it is right now”. “Special” gateways of great opportunity open in rare times in the life of individuals and nations. Recognize them, make the best use of them. Since Trump’s unique presidency is not of a career politician and he has a maverick history of saying what he feels, his words can reveal the honest impact an experience has had on him. The key term I noticed he used during his India sojourn was that India had in him a “loyal friend” in the White House.
Loyalty is a hugely important word in Trump’s personal code of life. He is very loyal to friends, as those friends across various walks of life have testified. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his trade and foreign policy colleagues avoid repeating careless mistakes of the past, Trump’s presidential tenure as “loyal friend of India” can bring enormous benefits for present and future generations. To ensure long-term benefits from the Trump presidency, for the greater majority of India’s people, Modi and policy strategists need to carefully avoid chasing short-term gains only for the minority, such as industry lobbyists. To understand the Trump psyche, it is vital to understand Trump as a quintessential deal maker, the real-estate tycoon from the Bronx who made his billions in the mafiadominated New York of the 1970s and ’80s – a tough guy unlikely to surrender to what he feels is a bad deal for him or his country.
Modi and his team need to see the big picture in dealing with Trump, understand what to let go and on what to focus on, and ensure long-lasting gains for India from what can be a phase of a special friendship with the world’s sole superpower. For a start, drop the visa begging bowl. Let go the humiliating process of demanding more visas for Indians into the US – somewhat like pestering a reluctant friend to let many more of our relatives into staying and working in his prosperous house, at the expense of the friend’s own family members. Imagine the public reaction across India if Sri Lanka or Bangladesh pestered the Indian government for hundreds of thousands of more visas for their citizens to work in India and take away jobs from Indian workers.
The Trump presidency merely exposed what was hardly a secret: how leading Indian information technology companies have been defrauding the US government by misusing the H1B visa. They pocketed billions of dollars in combined profit by not paying the relevant high salaries attached to jobs from that particular visa for speciality jobs needing expertise not available in the host country. The Indian government and leaders need to stop being only representatives of visa cheats and trade lobbies trying to protect inferiorquality products and services from free and fair competition.
Modi and Co need to remember the larger interests of 1.2 billion Indians and future generations, not just of a few billionaires in India to feed their inexhaustible greed. The Indian government’s tit-fortat tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorbikes from the US served as a classic example of earning a few extra rupees for the minority, annoying Trump and throwing mud on the potential for the greater good. The greater good includes high-technology pacts that can fast-track India’s development. Strength is another keyword in Trump’s personal codebook of life. He respects those who are strong and show courage, as does any other selfrespecting person. So, India’s political and diplomatic leadership can stop disgracing India by whining to American presidents about the neighbouring psychotic terrorist state of Pakistan.
“He (Modi) can deal with it”, Trump said in his New Delhi press conference about Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in India – meaning he was confident of Modi’s ability to deal with it. If so, about time an Indian prime minister effectively dealt with the terrorist state of Pakistan – in more substantial ways than launching some minor cross-border sneak attacks to kill a few brainwashed, poverty-stricken young men that the cowardly Pakistani army employs as terrorists.
In the year 2020, 12 years after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, we are yet to see any real impact of India’s current strategies in ending Pakistanorigin mischief in the Indian states of Kashmir, Punjab and elsewhere like the suspiciously well-organized riots in New Delhi timed to Trump’s visit. Stop crying about Pakistan to US presidents, in bilateral summits with other world leaders and international fora. Instead do what is needed to stop Pakistan’s mischief, once and for all. Trump has his own agenda for his country, and he or no other country’s leader is going to fight India’s battles against terrorism beyond lending lipservice.
(The writer is a senior, Mumbai-based journalist)