Trump-Modi Bromance - Game Changer or Just Another TV Show?

Raman Swamy

In ancient times, kings and courtiers used to impress the common people with majestic displays of pomp and power.  Nothing much has changed in today’s world of democracies and dictatorships.  Except that the marvels of modern technology and instant communications have given such gala events a greater reach and a wider impact. 

To compare the ‘Howdy Modi’ show to the royal parades of the past is entirely appropriate.  Here was the president of the most powerful nation on the planet, Donald Trump, and the prime minister of the world’s most populous democracy, Narendra Modi, coming together to signal a new bond of friendship and brotherhood before a delirious audience of awe-struck citizens.

The awe-inspiring sights and sounds of the unique reality show enacted at the NRG stadium in Houston, Texas on Sunday were witnessed in real-time by a far larger segment of humanity than ever before in diplomatic history.

Never before has the world seen a President of the United States and a Prime Minister of India publically exhibiting such mutual admiration, holding hands with such gay abandon, extolling each other’s virtues so eloquently and virtually pledging eternal alliance between their two great countries.

In the bygone era of monarchy, the expression of cross-kingdom camaraderie might perhaps have been cemented by the announcement of a royal wedding between the prince of the realm and the princess of the visiting emperor.  

Instead, in tune with the needs of modern-day democracy, the betrothal took the form of coaxing the migrant population from the original motherland to pledging loyalty to their adopted homeland by voting for the resident ruler in the next election. 

The exhilarating grandeur of the occasion was exceeded only by the sheer audacity of attempting to influence the electoral fortunes of another nation state.   While this may be condoned by the teeming millions of devoted followers in the mother country, the potential consequences were perhaps too abstract to ponder about in the immediate context. 

In the intoxicating atmosphere inside the NRG Stadium what mattered most was the remarkable decision by two towering personalities of the 21st century to claim to have developed a personal chemistry that appears to have been triggered more by a mingling of political interests than a genuine meeting of hearts and minds.

The truth is that despite certain perceived similarities in their policies and politics – which some ardent analysts are eager to emphasize -- Donald Trump and Narendra Modi are clearly poles apart as human beings, as individuals and as rulers.  

Apart from the fact that they hail from vastly different family backgrounds, they have had very dissimilar life experiences, altogether divergent life styles and their world views are as divergent as can be imagined.  

These are matters that require more in-depth study and reasoning but even a cursory glance would show that the countries they currently run as elected leaders have greatly conflicting histories and aspirations for the future.

In the short-term however what is of relevance is the way the Houston event has played out.  The impact of their newly professed fealty to common goals deserves to be viewed in the current context.  It is a different matter whether it evolves into a firmer alliance that will alter the shape of things to come.  Or, as so many of modern-day reality shows and marriages of convenience tend to be, whether it was just another highly enthralling episode of Sunday television entertainment.

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Sep 26, 2019

Raman Swamy [email protected]

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