If people had listened to those who said ‘it cannot be done’, the world would not have progressed beyond the Stone Age. In present day India, the number of naysayers is quite considerable and they range from ivory tower academics to those who have enjoyed all the privileges in a highly unequal society that has too gradually been changing to a more equitable one. All the symptoms of the change have been strongly presented by the carpers as a ‘decline’ in democratic and other values. They deliberately refuse to concede that democracy and the people’s verdict throw up ‘solutions’ that need not necessarily be to the liking of the traditionally privileged.
There are many who are listing the many reasons why the hosting of US President Donald Trump is destined to fail. One major reason, of course, is the personality of Trump, who is unpredictable and generally considered incapable of the subtle diplomacy that any interaction with India requires. And, of course, the across the board coalition of political and economic interests that opposes anything that Prime Minister Modi does will proactively work to downplay, if not sabotage, the event. Social media warriors will put a spin on everything to develop a narrative that the visit had a negative outcome.
And, despite knowing all this, Modi is going ahead with welcoming Trump in as grand a way as possible. It is such a contrast with the times of Manmohan Singh, who refused almost entirely to put himself out there for fear of seeming too assertive to his political patron. India’s diplomacy naturally suffered as a result of his timidity and the diplomats had no recourse but to salvage what scraps they could off international negotiating tables.
Modi clearly does not hesitate from doing what he believes is the right thing regardless of possible adverse consequences. Any skilful negotiator in an imbalanced power equation will not bolster the status-quo, but seek instead to disrupt it in unconventional ways. The bluebloods have been unable to understand how Trump managed to not just become President, but also maintain a significant level of popularity among his people. This is because he entirely bypassed conventional wisdom to achieve his goals. Modi is not doing anything different in the practice of his foreign policy. If India is not going to be assertive and deal with the rest of the world on its own terms now, then when will it? It has always been potentially a major world player, even if it has punched below its weight, but it is about time it loses its habitual low esteem even if it faces the occasional embarrassment. The overall returns can only be hugely positive.