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Donald Trump is ushering in an era of son-in-law diplomacy

Surendra Kumar
Surendra KumarApr 15, 2017 | 16:43

Donald Trump is ushering in an era of son-in-law diplomacy

In January 11 at an Indo-American Friendship Association (IAFA) panel discussion, when the moderator asked a panelist, a popular diplomatic editor of a national daily, why the Indian media makes such a fuss about the exploits of a particular son-in-law in India when the newly elected president of the US, openly appoints his son-in-law as his senior adviser, she got a sudden bout of cough.

Power

It was a smart move to avoid a question whose answer could create some controversy. Two other panellists felt this wasn’t something terribly wrong; after all, even at the top, one needs eyes and ears to know what one must know and convey what needs to be conveyed to the concerned ears.

Basically, it’s the degree of trust and confidence of the boss one enjoys that matters. When the oldest democracy sets the trend, won’t others follow suit? Unwittingly, Donald Trump might be ushering in an era of son-in-law diplomacy.

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Unwittingly, Donald Trump might be ushering in an era of son-in-law diplomacy.

We are, unquestionably, the largest democracy and purportedly a natural and strategic partner of the US. So, shouldn’t we take full advantage of this new phenomenon to serve India’s vital national interests? The clinching argument is: where NSAs and FS and his counterpart fail, sons-in-law might succeed.

Whether it’s the issue of H1B visa, hike in visa fee, steep rise in basic salary or questions related to trade practices, market access, invest regulations, ease of doing business, transfer of technology, joint research and joint production, when negotiations get stuck, turn to the son-in-law to remove wrinkles away from the arc lights and strike a win–win deal.

Remember that Bollywwod song: Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaye, Jab Koi Mushkil Aa Jaye... The handsome and mild mannered son-in-law of the US president, Jared Kushner, a graduate from the Harvard University, reportedly believes that the government was, “a great American company” and citizens were like customers who deserved greater efficiencies.

While eyebrows have been raised about Kushner’s business dealings and his meetings with the Russian ambassador in Washington and moral and ethical propriety is being questioned, Trump has appointed Kushner to head a new White House office (White House office of innovations?) with sweeping powers to overhaul bureaucracy and fulfill his campaign promises.

Apparently, Trump wants to introduce new ideas from the business world and strive for lesser government and higher privatisation. Media reports suggest that Kushner will be helped by iconic CEOs like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Tim Cook of Apple and Elon Musk of Tesla who would help find solutions.

Staffed by former business executives, the new office might be termed as SWAT team of strategic consultants bringing with them fresh thinking and ability to solve problems. Most importantly, Kushner will report only to the President.

Evidently, son-in-law isn’t a taboo word in America nor his role and clout in decision making. Once upon a time, Emperor Ashok sent his son and daughter to far flung countries to spread the gospel of Buddhism and promote international peace and harmony.

Though world can’t remain unaffected by his decisions, Trump’s priorities are at home.

Hiccups

Doesn’t Modi’s mantra: minimum government and maximum governance underlines the same goals but with methods acceptable in prevailing Indian political and social milieu?

One is also reminded of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s economic advisory council in the PMO with NK Singh as member secretary and many leading lights of India Inc as its members that reported to the PM only. But this council, unlike Kushner’s team, was accountable.

Aadhar card, a brain child of Nandan Nilekani, launched by UPA-II has been embraced by the Modi government with greater vigour. MGNREGA was Manmohan and Sonia’s flagship scheme; it is being implemented with higher intensity plugging the leakages. GST was initiated by the UPA-II but is seeing fruition under Modi’s government after many hiccups.

Evidently, Modi has no qualms in incorporating game-changing ideas irrespective of their origin so long as they can meet India’s long term needs.

Chemistry

Since his pathbreaking visit to the Silicon Valley in Sept 2015, Modi has met Bill Gates, Sundar Pichai, Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg to explore possibilities of experimenting with the best of their ideas for fulfilling his transformational vision of making a New India.

There is an old saying: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Most of the MNCs follow the time-tested policy: think global but act local. Following the local practices enhances the chances of success.

If Kushner is the key adviser of President Trump on foreign affairs, trade and business related issues and West Asia, it would be unwise not to reach out to him and strike a warm and productive relationship.

While Modi can work on his charm offensive and establish Obama-like personal chemistry with Trump, isn’t there an urgent need of a suave, business savvy and reliable son-in-law?

The asymmetry between the US and India in economic and defence capabilities is known. Sadly, the same is true about the son-in-law. While the US President can say with a glint in his eyes: Mere paas son-in-law hai, Indian side can’t.

But in our country of 1.3 billion people, would it be difficult to find a counterpart of Kushner who must enjoy the trust and confidence of the PM and also be capable of striking friendly chord with Jared Kushner? Where there is a will, there is a way.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Last updated: April 15, 2017 | 16:43
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