Dear members of Hindu Sena,
You performed a havan last year about the same time, on May 11, 2016 to be precise, to invoke god’s benediction for Donald Trump’s victory in the US election. God was kind. He did listen to your prayers.
Please perform a havan on the eve of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Trump on Monday.
Your beloved leader Modiji needs god’s benediction the most for his meeting to go off without major hiccups. Pray that the meeting passes off as what Times of India reporter has quoted “cautious Indian interlocutors” saying that they would be happy if the “visit goes off without chills and spills at the expense of thrills.”
For, it’s no secret that Trump is as unpredictable in his meetings with world leaders as Modi is predictable. Trump is as known for his puckered lips, he can be as quick to put on his now well-known scowls (check with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel) as Modi can be fawning and obsequious.
Hindu Sena celebrates Donald Trump's birthday. [Photo: Mint]
Please bear in mind some absolute no-go areas. Modi must avoid monogram pinstripes (gold is no, no) at his face-to-face with host. Trump is not Barack Obama. Also, the White House host of Modi dislikes atmospherics as much as our prime minister is fond of optics.
Much as one would like the White House dinner to pass off smoothly, I’m most worried on two counts. Firstly, Modiji’s habit of hugging leaders in tight embrace may not be taken kindly by Trump.
KC Singh, a former diplomat and veteran commentator on foreign affairs, has issues a timely warning that must be taken seriously. He tweeted after looking at pictures of Modi holding the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa in a bear hug in Lisbon.
This hugging thing is getting embarrassing. Men don't hug men, particularly in the West, unless they are old buddies. https://t.co/byrj81T89Q— K. C. Singh (@ambkcsingh) June 24, 2017
#Lisbon, Portugal: PM Narendra Modi emplanes for Washington DC, USA pic.twitter.com/EZ7PkC4JIs— ANI (@ANI_news) June 24, 2017
Modiji mustn’t make this mistake in the White House. A warm handshake will do. Even a white knuckled-handshake that has become so famous by now will be welcome.
Though one must say Trump’s tweet as the Prime Minister departed Lisbon for Washington sounds hugely encouraging.
Thank you @POTUS for the warm personal welcome. Greatly look forward to my meeting and discussions with you @realDonaldTrump. https://t.co/lOfxlLI7v0— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 25, 2017
Absolutely heart-warming it’s is. But as we know Trump’s unpredictability can still be a mood spoiler.
The point is that Western media has described Trump an “alpha male” in the room where he alone struts and dominates. Modi with his 56-inch chest claim too looks himself in an alpha male image. Two alpha males don’t ever go together.
Trump is control freak and is known to be in love with his self-image. That can be risky on two counts. Firstly, our Prime Minister too likes to control (remember demonetisation). Secondly, both leaders are equally fond of looking directly into camera. That could be a major problem and one hopes Modiji avoids his tendencies to hog camera.
He must remember Trump’s famous push - some have called it “presidential push”- at the NATO’s meeting with EU leaders. Poor Dusko Markovic, Montenegro’s prime minister! EU leaders would never forget Trump’s push to get to the front to pose for the camera.
A couple of more cautions are in order. Modi shouldn’t think he is in twitter race with Trump. POTUS is not far ahead of him in number of Twitter followers. It’s Trump’s 32.8 million versus Modi’s 31 million. A close call such as this can result in ego clash. At the end of it, India will be the loser in any ego clash.
There should absolutely be no mention of number of Twitter followers Modi commands in any television interview or media interactions even if an American anchor, someone like Megyn Kelly, makes Modi uncomfortably shuffle in his seat by asking about his presence in the twitter sphere.
Trump and Modi share another remarkable affinity. Both communicate to the people mainly through twitter, though unlike Modi, Trump doesn’t shy away from talking to friendly channels like Fox News. They prefer monologues to dialogues.
During Trump’s monologue, Modi must listen carefully to deals he has to offer. Making any offer of a counter deal can be counterproductive. Modi must resist the temptation to offer a sweet deal under the Make in India programme.
But in Trump’s transactional world, any deal he offers can be counterbid only by a deal to make America Great again. Modi must keep in mind that any deal to create jobs in America will be welcome. Talks of job creation in India can be counterproductive.
President Xi Jinping of China offered deals galore to escape Trump’s wrath on trade policies. After having threatened China with imposing a whopping 45 per cent import tariffs in retaliation against trade imbalance, Trump was all sugar and honey following Xi’s offer to take North Korea off US’s back. China was no longer a “currency manipulator” after Xi’s offered some sweeteners for Ivanka Trump’s brands.
India has simply no wherewithal to impress Trump with deals. The one major deal that Modi could have dangled before Trump was to further cozying up to US strategic interests in South China Sea and in Asia as part of China containment policy.
However, that’s no longer on the table with Trump having called off Obama’s pivot to Asia. Geo-strategic matters simple doesn’t interest Trump.
We as a nation are eternally optimist. Hence our media has rightly found some consolation in US administration’s decision to host Modi for a working White House dinner. Complete with a red carpet roll-on.
Of course, short of Trump’s favourite Mar-a-Lago retreat, where he hosted Xi and before that the Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, the White House dinner proposal is a great idea, though Camp David could have been a face -saver. Trump did recently go there with family members. But that wasn’t to be.
Finally, one more soft warning: Modiji mustn’t address him Donald; like he addressed Obama by his first name Barack. Trump is known to fly off handle at the smallest provocation.
Dear members of Hindu Sena and assorted Hindutva organisations. A havan is called for Modi’s meeting with Trump to pass off without chills.