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India Needs to Hedge Its Bets in America as Ignoring Democrats May Prove Costly

By: Lt Gen (Retd) PC Katoch

Last Updated: July 30, 2020, 19:42 IST

India has been pushing for reforms of the United Nations, including the Security Council.

India has been pushing for reforms of the United Nations, including the Security Council.

It may be argued that the US has no choice but to support India even if the Democrats come to power, with China’s renewed, all-around aggression. But it is the ‘degree’ of support that will matter.

Xi Jinping has hit America real hard with the coronavirus. With over 4.5 million total cases and 1,53,000 deaths (1,300 in the last 24 hours), the country is in disarray. The Communist Party of China is rejoicing and is blackmailing many nations to either toe Beijing’s line or starve for PPE, ventilators and other pandemic-related equipment, plus the vaccine under human trial in China. Whether China’s vaccine can be trusted after its worldwide 'bioweapon attack' is questionable; it may cure Covid-19 but may have a Trojan virus based on the secret DNA research China is engaged in to induce slow death in human races other than the Han Chinese – the best way to dominate the planet with total resources thereafter at Xi Jinping’s disposal.

But the pandemic is not the sole reason for the turmoil in the United States. The death of George Floyd after being arrested in Minneapolis and held down by a police officer, who had his knee on his neck while the latter pleaded he couldn't breathe, has led to protests in cities across the US and other parts of the world. Floyd is the latest Black American killed by police among such periodic killings by US police, like: 2014 - Eric Garner (July 17), Michael Brown (August 9) and Tamir Rice (November 22); 2015 - Walter Scott (April 4); 2016 - Alton Sterling (July 5) and Philando Castile (July 6); 2018 - Stephon Clark (March 18), and 2020 - Breonna Taylor (March 13). Violent protests are continuing in many cities of the US and there are reports of some protesters having been killed.

With the US presidential election slated for November 4, the stage is set for the race for power where resorting to any and every means is fair. President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic is under severe criticism. There is speculation that China and Russia may interfere with the election as they would not want Trump back for a second term, not to mention Iran and North Korea.

Having come to power on native white American supremacy, Trump wanted military bases and installations to fly the Confederate flag. But Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a de facto ban on displaying the flag at military installations around the world by saying, "The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols." The Confederate flag was flown by breakaway Southern states in the US that advocated continuation of slavery and lost the Civil War (1861-1865). The flag is offensive to Black Americans including those serving in the US military.

With 96 days left for the presidential election, Trump appears largely trailing Joe Biden, even in Texas where college-educated voters supported Biden. Trump said on July 19 that he may not accept the results of the election in November. Responding in The Washington Post on July 27, American political scientist Brian Klaas wrote, “President Trump is laying the groundwork to do something that no previous president has ever done: falsely claim that an election was fixed against him in order to discredit the vote. Such crises never happen in other functioning democracies. But they happen all the time in broken countries around the world. In contentious elections from Africa to Southeast Asia, incumbents who lose often refuse to accept defeat. Welcome to the club, America!”

As of now the presidential contest appears to be favouring the Democrats. With racial discord and rising unemployment, Trump himself says nobody likes him. There is also speculation that Trump may make a deal with his deputy Mike Pence to run for President instead of himself just as Nixon did with Ford, and Pence may give Biden a formidable challenge, being younger in age and acceptable to the moderates. If Biden and the Democrats win, where does that leave India? Interestingly, this question is being posed by Indian-Americans, not in India where more focus is on the upcoming Bihar elections and dissent within the Rajasthan government.

Diplomacy entails influencing the decisions and conduct of foreign governments and officials through dialogue, negotiations and other means. It refers to international relations carried out through the intercession of professional diplomats with regard to a full range of topical issues. But diplomacy can also be shortsighted, eat up one's identity and at times bereft of benefits. Trump was mesmerised with the 'Namaste Trump' event at Motera Stadium in Gujarat on February 24, 2020, where he said America’s economy is in the best-ever state today. But what galled the Democrats was the 'Howdy, Modi!' event at Houston in September 2019, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the clarion call of "Ab Ki Baar, Trump Sarkar". The event mixed diplomacy with politics, which many termed dangerous and more of an election rally for Trump.

It is more than noticeable that Democrat Senators are overtly making anti-India statements, to the glee of the Pakistan lobby, which along with Pakistani journalists is rallying around them. Signals emanating from Indian-Americans who support India are like:

India has to reach out to both sides (Republicans and Democrats).

Blunders like cancelling the OCI Card of journalist Aatish Taseer because he wrote an article criticising Modi need to be avoided because the US is all about power to journalists and free speech.

Blocking journalists does more harm than benefit. These guys work mostly with US Democrats whose rhetoric then changes.

When folks like Sambit Patra are BJP spokesperson then hope is little for social harmony and diplomacy.

Modi has to reinvent himself post the standoff with China. India is globally seen as a new world/US/Western friend; to strengthen that, Modi needs a new avatar.

Modi’s advisors are fixated on Hinduism and Congress since both made them come to power. But now there is no worry about these with no opposition worth the name. So the rhetoric needs to cool off.

It may be argued that America has no choice but to support India even if the Democrats come to power, with China’s renewed, all-around aggression. But it is the ‘degree’ of support that will matter. Besides, Trump set the precedent of reversing almost everything his predecessor supported – the Paris Accord, Iran Nuclear Deal, Obamacare, you name it. Modi and his advisors need to adjust focus accordingly.

(The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views are personal.)