Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
THE week is being spent in Washington, the city whose most important inhabitant is Donald John Trump, the 45th President of the US. The evening before departing on the Etihad flight from Delhi en route to Washington, this columnist was warned by close friends coming from Miami that he and his wife’s visits to Iran (and in his case, even to Syria) may result in both being denied access to what is still the world’s most powerful country. Abu Dhabi has the facility of allowing passengers to the US to check through customs and immigration at the airport itself, so that the flight lands in the domestic terminal. As in the past, neither the Iranian nor even the Syrian visas displayed on the passport deterred a courteous immigration officers from once again stamping their clearance for this columnist and his spouse to spend the next six months in the US, if desired.
The usual length of stay, is of course less than ten days on most trips. Should Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai secure the same pre-clearance facility as Abu Dhabi has for US-bound trips, that would be welcomed by passengers. Etihad flight EY 0131 from Abu Dhabi to Washington was way better in quality of service than any North American or European airline flown, although it may get some competition from a few carriers based in Asia. Hours after landing, it was clear that the Beltway establishment would not surrender on its policies to President Trump without a very stiff fight, which is playing out in Washington, especially in the US Congress, where the Democratic Party, especially its “Sanderistas” (Bernie Sanders followers), have launched an all-out war against the billionaire who bested Hillary Clinton on January 20. Angered by Trump proving wrong their near-unanimous forecast of a Hillary Clinton sweep, the media in particular are attacking Trump with a zeal previously displayed only in the case of Richard Nixon soon after he won a second term.
In particular, they are pointing out that Trump has not been able to persuade the US Congress to approve even a start in funding for the wall that he is eager get built on the border with Mexico. Aware of the toxic nature of such a project on Latino voters, the Democratic Party opposes the wall, as do several Republicans, although the latter mostly in private. There is much criticism that the Trump Wall as yet exists only in the mind of Donald Trump. Now that Donald Trump is President of the United States, he needs to shift focus from making money to securing an honoured place in history, if needed at the expense of some of the vast wealth he has. A good start would be to announce a donation from his personal wealth of $ 1 million towards the estimated $ 36 billion cost of the Trump Wall. Should just 3499 other High Net Worth individuals in the US donate a million each to project, the wall would be off to a winning start. In a country of tens of thousands of hyper-rich folks, it should not be difficult for Trump as well as his billionaire colleagues in the administration to give a million dollars each for a scheme that they say is vital for the interests of citizens of the United States. A million dollar cheque, followed by a challenge to his fellow multi-millionaires in the world’s richest country, would remove much of the sting in the almost hysterical volleys against Trump by both the media as well as his political detractors. The wall that is proposed to be built on the Mexico border will be named the Trump Wall, and if it were to be funded through private donations, that would be a gesture worthy of the statesperson that Donald Trump intends to be. Such a move may even facilitate the tax plans of the 45th President, which involve the lowering of taxes so as to boost growth. Public opinion would be less hostile to tax cuts for the wealthy were they to pay out of their own pockets for Trump’s signature project, with President himself being Donor 1.
Each country has the right to protect its own borders, unless of course that country is part of the European Union, an entity that is borderless within itself, and the US ought not to be faulted for doing the same along a border that has always been porous and almost as prone to illegal migrant flows as the India-Bangladesh border. The project is, however, controversial in view of the fact that the proposed wall is seen as affecting only the Mexican community, a pool of individuals that contains some of the finest minds and characters in North America. Now that the head of the Trump family is holding the world’s most consequential position, the children and business associates of President Trump need to appreciate that the more money they make, the greater will be the risk of prosecution, especially of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who have had the moral courage to formally join the Trump administration as advisors to the President despite the much higher risk of legal jeopardy that such a change in title entails.
Bith Eric as well as Donald Trump Jr are young, as indeed is the other ace businessperson in the family, Jared Kushner. They can comfortably wait out the four or eight years of the Trump presidency before resuming their full throttle sprint towards making more billions. Indeed, the bigger the bottom line of the Trump business empire becomes during the period when Donald and Melania are in residence at the White House, the higher the risk of not simply bad publicity but worse. This is the time to shed some of the wealth made over the decades, so that President Trump retains the goodwill of the people that he needs in order to be viable as a transformational leader. It is not money but the moral force created out of using personal wealth for public good that can make the Trump presidency shine in history. President Trump should start this process by being the first patriot to give over a million dollars of his own money towards building the Trump Wall along the border with Mexico.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.