Recently, while referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's phone call informing him of the decision to reduce the import duty on the American Harley-Davidson motorbike by 50 per cent and calling him a "beautiful" and "fantastic" man, US President Donald Trump mimicked Modi in his own characteristic style and made it abundantly clear that he wasn't truly "thrilled".
This hasn't gone down well in India. Most commentators felt that he wasn't only un-presidential and undiplomatic but also reckless.
But is the world dealing with Trump?
The world is dealing with the president of the United State who never gets tired of shouting from the rooftop of its exceptionalism. The president of the oldest democracy in the world is expected to conduct himself in a manner that commands respect from the international community rather than reduce himself to the level of a stand-up comedian.
No one can deny that the issue of asymmetrical import duties on American products is a legitimate one; it ought to be discussed dispassionately and addressed. However, does an issue which involves the export of around 3,700 Harvey-Davidson motorbikes from the US to India and mere 1,000 Indian motorbikes to the US annually deserve to be raised by the US president publicly in such a farcical manner? The number of American bikes which are manufactured in India and the total amount involved is so minuscule that it could have been raised by the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in New Delhi with the ministry of external affairs.
But that would have been "un-Trumply"! Even when Bill Clinton imposed the severest sanctions on India in the aftermath of the nuclear tests in May 1998, he didn't mimic Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Both Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger called Indira Gandhi a b****h in private but refrained from name calling even at the height of the tensions in India-US relations before the birth of Bangladesh.
Alas, there is none in the White House who could tell the billionaire president that there are certain internationally accepted norms of behaviour for any head of state. Unfortunately, the US administration rarely draws right lessons from its questionable decisions and lets moles become mountains and minor pinpricks develop into public spats.
Towards the fag end of Manmohan Singh's second term as prime minister, the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, Indian deputy consul general in New York, allegedly over the issue of wages paid by her to her Indian help, which could have been easily resolved through diplomatic channels, was allowed to rock the bilateral relations.
Trump runs the risk of annoying millions of Indians if he mimics and mocks Narendra Modi again. Here is a man who, putting behind the row over the refusal of a US visa, has brought India closest to America overcoming the hesitation of history. He is the unquestioned, uncrowned king of his party and the man under whose leadership BJP-led governments rule in 20 Indian states today. As a recent India Today survey revealed, despite some erosion of the euphoria which accompanied his assumption of the premiership, Modi still remains the most popular political leader of India.
If you call India a major defence partner, a strategic partner with whom you hold annual strategic and commercial dialogue and extensive military exercises and seek cooperation for your vision for the Indo Pacific Region, QUAD and Afghanistan and host of other regional and global issues, you can't let your broad strategic vision be spiked by 4,000 odd Harley-Davidson motorbikes.
It is not in America's national interest. Such issues can best be addressed through India-US Business Council, annual bilateral commercial dialogues, diplomatic channels and lastly, the World Trade Organisation.
The US President needs to realise that while he might please some constituencies by raising such issues, it won't serve his "America First" mission in the long run. He must focus on the broader picture.
It appears President Trump misses Donald Trump, the head of the Trump Empire who had unfettered power of reprimanding and firing his employees.
But the leaders of various countries are not his employees. They don't owe their positions to him.
Trump must face some inescapable hard facts: The word is no more unipolar; the US is not the only superpower notwithstanding its slight economic edge over China and overwhelming domination in military might.
Even the strongest nations can't afford to take on the entire world at the same time. Trump must better shut up and practice some yoga; it will calm him down. India is the best friend he has, and he should not lose her by his reckless behaviour.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)