27th February 2020
On Monday in Ahmedabad, president Donald Trump and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the world’s largest cricket stadium, jointly addressing an audience of 125,000 jubilant Indians.
It was the first stop on Trump’s maiden diplomatic two-day visit to India, in Modi’s home state of Gujarat. Certainly, there are few places in the world where Trump can enjoy the sort of rock-star reception, replete with folk dancers and Bollywood singers, that India afforded him.
The event, billed as “Namaste Trump”, was a nod to the “Howdy Modi” spectacle rolled out for Modi last fall in Houston. Both stocky strongmen exchanged embraces and rhetorical flourishes, as Trump painfully contorted his way through snippets of Hindi and the names of hallowed figures from Sachin Tendulkar to Swami Vivekananda.
Trump received the pageantry befitting an autocrat whose ego is bound up with crowd sizes. Modi and his fabled “56-inch chest” can summon up throngs at the scale that would make Trump blush.
Trump has long expounded over his fraternal relationship with Modi. Indeed, there’s much that Trump must admire – and perhaps is envious of – when he takes a look at how his Indian ruling counterpart operates.
Since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in 2014, Modi and his regime have presided over a steady erosion of the institutional and ideological foundations of the Indian secular republic to realize the political horizon of a Hindu Rashtra (nation) where minorities are second-class citizens, if not cleansed from the body politic altogether.