All about optics

| Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on November 29, 2017

Ivanka Trump’s visit is little more than a proxy pat on the back for India from her father

As global jamborees go it had all the right ingredients in exactly the right measure. The Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) that’s under way in Hyderabad had famous names like John Chambers, executive chairman of Cisco, and also Cherie Blair the lawyer wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, who talked about how she was the first spouse at No 10 Downing Street who had an university degree. But the extra splash of glamour came undoubtedly from Ivanka Trump, who’s famously the First Daughter and special advisor to her father, Donald Trump. Introducing her to the audience during a panel discussion, Telangana’s IT Minister KT Rama Rao joked that usually in Hyderabad IT stood for information technology but for this meeting it stood for Ivanka Trump. Ivanka, unlike her more pugnacious father, flashed smiles in all directions and made it a point to make all the right crowd-pleasing statements about Narendra Modi rising from ‘tea-seller’ to Prime Minister and India growing into an economic colossus.

Ivanka may have been relieved to be greeted by a relatively un-hostile crowd in Hyderabad. Her earlier solo outings have often earned her brickbats. In Germany at the W20 summit she was booed when she described her father as a “tremendous champion of supporting families’, even as Chancellor Angela Merkel made a special effort to be welcoming. At the G20 summit she faced a hostile media for taking her father’s seat at a meeting of world leaders. But Ivanka who used to run a fashion and jewellery business, has smartly positioned herself as the president’s representative on women’s issues . Also at the G20, she joined World Bank president Jim Yong Kim at a meeting which looked at ways to boost female entrepreneurs in developing countries. She also travelled with President Trump to Saudi Arabia where she took part in a round-table discussion with female entrepreneurs. The key theme of Hyderabad’s GES meet is ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’ and more than half the 1,500 delegates are women. However, one unusual feature of Ivanka's trip is that no senior state department official accompanied her. This is said to be because of rising differences between Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Ivanka’s trip to Hyderabad is certainly a sign of warming relations between India and the US. But it’s more doubtful whether the GES meet will bring fresh business to Hyderabad and India. The GES meetings were conceived by President Obama as a different way of linking with Islamic countries and previous meets have taken place in countries like Morocco, Malaysia and Turkey. One former state department official criticised the meets saying, “This celebration of entrepreneurship will be another case of empty words.” India, with its technological prowess, can offer more than Morocco or Malaysia, and Telangana’s Rama Rao has certainly sent out all the right messages. Ivanka’s visit has reaffirmed India’s stronger ties with the US but not much more can be read into the visit of a political lightweight.

Published on November 29, 2017
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