Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
ONCE again, travel from Delhi to the United States, this time to New York, was smooth, the flight arriving an hour early on a Saturday evening. The taxi service booked for transportation from Kennedy Airport to the hotel responded with equal speed, ensuring that an alternative vehicle was sent early enough to ensure zero wastage of time at the airport. Although CNN feeds its international viewers a daily (indeed, hourly) diet of horror stories about Donald Trump’s America, the officers at the immigration desk who cleared entry into the US were their usual polite and efficient selves. India has become a focus area for the US, now that the Indo-Pacific has displaced the Atlantic as the geopolitical plot of the globe, and presumably this may help explain the fact that US consular services in and to India remain at a high standard.
Hopefully, just as in a few airports elsewhere, the Modi government will go ahead with setting up pre-clearance facilities at some airports in India, so that the flights can land as a domestic flight, thereby avoiding immigration queues coming after a long flight. There are, of course, countries whose citizens are these days finding it much harder to get a US visa than was the case during the tenure in the White House of Barack Obama. Sometimes, a tougher policy may generate results. In 1994 New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani launched a series of police actions against crime in New York city and improved the law and order environment before demitting office eight years later. More than twenty years later, almost the entire city is still as safe as when Giuliani left it. However, although the program was a success, and Giuliani became a recognised name worldwide after the September 11,2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre, he was way behind most challengers in his efforts at winning the Republican Party nomination as well as in his efforts at becoming a US Senator.
There was something that was excessively harsh about Giuliani, a facet of his personality that seemed almost as abrasive as the personality of Josef Stalin rather than a politician in a democracy. However, he established a close relationship with Billionaire Trump, and after November 8,2016, President Trump ensured that the former New York Mayor got back into prominence, although he refused to make him either Secretary of State or Defence. However, Giuliani has been nominated by the President as his Attorney, and about the only benefit that Trump seems to have got from this symptom of loyalty is the fact that almost every day, Giuliani metaphorically puts both his feet into his mouth and in the resultant furore, less vitriol is expended on the President than would have been the case were the former New York Mayor not media fodder. Some of the appointments made by Trump have clearly been based on repaying loyalty to him, a propensity not uncommon in politics, where politicians need to reward loyalty or begin to lose the same among their followers.
A Trump appointment that is severely affecting the international image of the US , especially in countries other than members of the Atlantic Alliance, is that of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The former Senator’s home state of Alabama was known for the cruelty that was inflicted on slaves brought over from Africa to work on cotton plantations. Unfortunately, Sessions gives every indication of retaining residues of the psychological disturbances that characterise those who believe that skin pigment ( or its absence) is a reliable indicator of the kind of person a human being is. Slaveholder plantations in Alabama separated black children from parents the way Germany under Hitler did in the case of Jews and the Roma population, both of which he sought to exterminate, with regrettable success. As Attorney General, Sessions has put in place a process by which young children are being violently separated from their parents, if the latter have crossed illegally into the US.
According to Sessions, such measures have been sanctioned by the Christian scriptures, quoting passages from St Paul (Romans) to make this grotesque case. The fact is that Jeff Sessions is headed for hell, and by separating fathers and mothers from their (often very) young, he resembles Lucifer in a manner that brings discredit to the image of the US as the land of liberty. Citizens are horrified at the slave plantation techniques used by the US Border Patrol in the matter of wrenching apart even infant children from their parents, yet he persists with retaining Sessions as Attorney General out of a sense of personal loyalty.
However, an individual who is (together with daughter Ivanka Kushner) the closest to President Trump has spoken out in a manner that Ivanka has not, to the disappointment of millions in India whose affection for the First Daughter rose as a consequence of reports of her close relations with the Indian-American community in the US, and her brief but successful visit to Hyderabad in India, where she charmed all the individuals who came in touch with her. First Lady Melania Trump (or President Trump) has yet to visit India, yet many in the country have warmed to the subtle but firm rebuke she administered to the slaveholder attitude of Jeff Sessions in the matter of separating children from parents. Apart from Melania Trump, another individual who has reacted to such an atrocious move is Pope Francis, who has not disappointed those who expected him to make his voice heard on the issue.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.