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Intriguing silence, the Hamburg conclave and seven predictions


GAITHERSBURG, MD: In keeping with my affirmation to attempt a fuller assessment of the recent two-day visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States, I have no hesitation in stating that it was a damp squib. As much was underlined in that India’s core interests – new defence deals, waiver of the reviewed H-1B visa system and praise for her ‘surgical strikes’ etc – were not secured.


There was little in-depth media coverage. While the Washington Post had no news in the paper or website about the actual Modi-Trump meet; CNN reported that the interface was “long on proclamation of friendship and short on confrontation over delicate policy issues”; with the storied New York Times expressing concerns that “India might have with Trump showing less interest than his predecessors.”

While diplomatic statements, clothed in emollient generalities, were issued, the two voluble principals did not engage in the customary post-meeting media encounter. Would that have revealed the less-than-robust state of Indo-American health?


From current reportage from India and China it is evident that tension continues to roil Sino-Indian relations, even as the Tibet, Sikkim, Bhutan theatre – and the adjacent area of the Darjeeling hills and the Siliguri ‘chicken neck’ – continues to simmer.

The timing of the eruption of low-level hostilities between India and China before Modi’s US visit was intriguing: I wondered if that sudden deterioration might have been provoked by India to ‘prove’ that China is a serious threat to India/regional peace and needs to be contained with American assistance.

Admittedly, from here it is difficult – if not quite impossible – to know exactly what’s going on out there.

But, what is amazing is not just that the Indian defence minister Arun Jaitely should publicly remind one and all that India, 2017 is not India, 1962 – suggesting that, if words did degenerate into open conflict between the military forces of India and China, India would bloody China’s nose!

Or, for that matter, that the spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry should respond by reminding that ‘Just like India, China is also different from 1962’, but – rather – that the potential threat of open hostilities – a la October 1962 – between the world’s two most populated countries should not make any reportorial waves here.

Not only has this troubling state of affairs not figured in official circles – as far as one can tell – but that it has not been seriously covered by the American media, which is, of course, well represented both in Beijing as well as New Delhi!


So, what the heck is going on? Does anyone know? Will Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping – in Moscow as I write this – take up the issue when, presumably, they meet in Hamburg, Germany during the Group of 20’s annual summit, July 7-8?

And, coming to think about it, what is Kathmandu’s position regarding the current Sino-Indian spat? Or, is the new Deuba-led government bravely keeping mum?

On the eve of the 4th of July holiday what is making news is the maiden meeting, albeit as a sidebar, between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Hamburg. Among the manifold issues and considerations that are being ventilated in the American media is that Xi and Putin would be holding important consultations prior to the G-20 event, where 19 of the world’s major economies plus the EU participate.

It may be noted that, as the Washington Post has reported, the host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has vowed before parliament to defend the international climate agreement spurned by the Trump administration, anticipating a difficult meeting of G-20 leaders in Hamburg.


President Trump, who visits Poland before landing in Hamburg, continues to baffle all and sundry with any amount of policy decisions – and tweets – while political egg-heads begin, increasingly, to engage with the prospect of his impeachment.

In concluding this column, I now summarize seven predictions made on that hot-button issue, publicized in a well-researched piece in ‘New York’ magazine by Frank Rich, entitled: “How A Presidency Ends”.

They are, as follows: 1. by Tony Schwartz, co-author, The Art of the Deal: “My gut tells me that when the fire gets hot enough, he (Trump) will make a deal to save himself, resign the presidency, and declare victory.” 2. by Newt Gingrich: “After the Democrats went zero for four in special elections, the delusions and fantasies continue. Trump will be reelected in 2020, and Pence will probably follow him in 2024. The analogue for Trump is Andrew Jackson, not Richard Nixon. 3. by Garry Kasparov, chairman of the Human Rights Foundation: “America is headed for more chaos, more division and a constitutional crisis. Trump cares only for his ‘brand,’ so he’ll look for a way out before impeachment.”

  1. By Barney Frank, former congressman: “The likeliest outcome is a very weakened presidency that goes a full term, but discredits much of the angry rhetoric and sentiment that got Trump elected – that the problems of the ordinary people are a consequence of government overreach.” 5. by Frank Luntz, Repubican pollster: “His (Trump’s) survival is based on maintaining the support he has from the tens of millions of Americans who voted for him. And from what I see and hear, they’re behind him 100 percent.”
  2. By Charlie Sykes, former talk-show host: “Until Republicans even show a modest willingness to stand up to the president, it’s hard to see how they would be complicit in bringing down.” 7. by Margaret Sullivan, media columnist, Washington Post: “Although beset and besieged at every turn – and gaining an average of 10 pounds a year – Trump will indeed make it through his first term. He’ll choose not to run again in 2020. Mike Pence will run and lose to New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who thus becomes the first female president.”

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