From the Viewsroom

The hard-to-please Trump

Paran Balakrishnan | Updated on February 24, 2020 Published on February 24, 2020

US President Donald Trump   -  Bloomberg

The US President has been a nightmare invitee for many countries

Has there ever been a state guest like US President Donald Trump? An earlier President, George Bush Jr, did demand a hamburger rather than Indian delicacies but was, by all accounts, a genial, easy-to-please guest in every other way. Trump is sui generis — in a league of his own. It’s tough to imagine him sitting through a Republic Day parade or any of the standard cultural offerings we inflict on our VIP guests. So White House officials must be worrying about how Trump, with his legendarily-short attention span, will appreciate India’s plans for thousands of dancers to perform as he races through India.

Indeed, it seems a rather alarming prospect to take Trump, who believes the White House falls short as living quarters compared to his gaudy Louis XIV-style New York penthouse, to a place like the Sabarmati Ashram, famed mainly for Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts to live an austere life, shaved of all but the basics. It’s even tougher to imagine what Trump might tweet about it after the visit. Several of Trump’s diplomatic forays have been marred by aggressive tweets and he’s been a nightmare invitee for many countries.

Is there a special reason bringing Trump to India? Is it to sign a defence treaty and firm up an alliance with India? Is it the possibility of getting crowds indisputably greater than anything Barack Obama ever managed to draw? Or is it a visit to impress Indian-origin voters in a US election year? Such visits have become almost commonplace. Most British prime ministers schedule a visit to India about six months before elections. Boris Johnson was an exception, and that was because his election took place at short notice.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came for a highly publicised visit, though it backfired because it generated bad publicity at home. But if Trump’s visit is to garner the Indian vote, can we hope our volatile, unpredictable guest will be on his best behaviour? It’s a safe bet the government will be murmuring heartfelt prayers for all to go off well over the next few days — and also that the entry gate at the highlight “Namaste Trump” event stays up.

Published on February 24, 2020
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