All that matters
By SUNJOY HANS
The last week of February was rather newsful this time, crammed with an unusually high number of events and developments of national or international consequence – whether it be the maiden visit of American President Donald Trump to this country, the persistent violence in New Delhi over the Citizenship Amendment Act, the rising threat of coronavirus globally, or the Eastern Zonal Council meeting down here in Bhubaneswar.
President Trump’s visit was doubtlessly high on spectacle. But was it high enough on substance? Debates over that raged both in the United States and India before, during and after he came and left.
Much of the American press and a section of the domestic media here brushed aside Trump’s whirlwind tour as nothing more than a mutual public relations exercise with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that served the political interests of the two leaders. Their reading of this entire exercise was broadly this: Trump is seeking re-election in the Presidential elections coming up later this year and would do well with the support of the sizeable (18-lakh strong) and fairly influential Indian diaspora in the United States; Modi wants wider international validation of his leadership and his government’s policies on Kashmir and other issues, and who better to get it from than the most powerful man in the world.
Yet there is also no dearth of political and media analysts who deem President Trump’s visit as a big step forward in India’s relationship with the United States that could reap dividends not only economically, with potentially better trade deals, but also geostrategically, with defence deals in the face of the ever-strengthening friendship between neighbouring Pakistan and China.
However, there can be no doubt about the crying need for the ongoing violence in New Delhi over the CAA to stop immediately – and peacefully. Even if President Trump overlooked it for his own sake or in the interests of his great nation, the world is still keenly watching. And so is the rest of this country. With every passing day, precious lives are being lost. And the longer this unrest continues in the national capital, the more it is likely to arouse communal passions in other parts of this land.
This was precisely one of the prime concerns raised by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the latest edition of the EZC meeting that was chaired by Union Minister Amit Shah and hosted by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar a few days ago.
With the history of intense sparring between Shah and Didi over the CAA and NRC issues, many were expecting two-way fireworks at the EZC meeting here ahead of their arrival. However, that never happened. The face-to-face lunch that they had at Naveen Niwas did not even get close to becoming a face-off. It was only hours later, at a pro-CAA rally in Janta Maidan, that Prime Minister Modi’s right-hand man decried the Trinamool Congress chief’s opposition to the Act.
If such rival alpha politicians can be wise enough not to let their serious differences get the better of their good judgement at unsuitable forums and settings, India’s ruling regime can surely do better than what it has been doing so far to stop the bleeding in the national capital. There is no hope for this nation to reach its potential as a global player if it is not happy and healthy inside. The Trump card can only do so much.