This article, entitled “Two State Hypocrites—The Indo-Pacific Humbugs” – written by one “Pettibandige” in Asian Tribune annoyed me greatly when I glanced at it first: in part because it is a slashing hack job steeped in bile and excess; and in part because of its glossing over of the Japanese imperial expansionist programme in the first half of the 20th century via its assertion “Possibly Pearl Harbour was a result.”
However, the stream of stridency adopted in the essay seems to be a literary device that is (A) in step with its play on the Sinhala ge name “Patabändige” – modified here to “Petti” as in box; and (B) in line with its continuous mockery of the two leading actors, namely Trump and Modi. I have therefore inserted my own imprint by marking those points I question in black and those jibes that have some foundation in red ….. Michael Roberts
Pettibandige: “Two star hypocrites – The Indo Pacific humbugs”
The USA, 120 years after Roosevelt, is in a hurry to have satellites in the Indian Ocean. It did so from Hawaii, Japan, Korea Philippines to Formosa (now Taiwan), until WW2. Possibly Pearl Harbour was a result. Even then the need to contain the ‘Sleeping Giant’ China was its objective. Trump’s first and probably last visit to India in February 2020 was in this frenetic search for partners. The best it can do is to be a nuisance to China.
Earlier it was Pakistan blood for weapons to face up to Russia. That ended in Afghanistan with the USA taking on the Taliban. The panic now is about SL after November 2019. It is no longer in the USA’s MCC pouch. India and the USA are ‘bhai bhai’ friends now, just as India was with China in 1962. When India overstepped its borders in the Aksai Chin area, China cut the Indian army to pieces in a very short sudden strike.
Modi the Indian PM, like Lt Gen Shavendra Silva the Commander of the SL Army, was banned from entering the US. This was especially for Modi’s part as Chief Minister in the Gujarat communal killings that led to 1044 (official)- – 2,000 (probable) deaths. More than two thirds of the dead were Muslims. That USA ban was suddenly lifted after Modi was elected PM. He [Modi] may delude himself that the Gujarati massacres were forgiven or forgotten and not only by the USA. Coincidentally, Nelson Mandela was also banned from the USA. Lt Gen Shavendra Silva is in a mixed company. Neither asked to go to the USA.
After Trump became President, Modi became equally truculent and reckless. Sensing Trump’s need for a stranglehold in Asia with India’s military, Modi began to harass and marginalize 200 million Indian Muslims to pander to his doctrine of Hindutva or a new version of a super North Indian Hindu race. He opened his arms to Trump’s Indo Pacific adventures. He must have had China on his eyelashes to have dumped India’s iconic and principled leadership of the non-aligned community. To serve his local and regional needs he rushed in to take up Trump’s battle cry of ‘Islamic extremism’. Modi’s grasp on power depends much on his appeal to extremists. He has abandoned any pretence of a secular India. Having first scuttled the sub continent’s SAARC up to the moment the corona virus entered India in March, he now has the gall to arrange for a video conference among the very members to discuss how best to tackle COVID -19. Rank hypocrisy.
While Trump landed in Ahmadabad, protests for and against India’s latest Immigration laws (Citizenship Amendment Act – CAA) led to North West of India’s capital Delhi going up in flames. Frenzied bloodletting, rape and murder followed. Mobs led by the storm troops of the fascist RSS, the militant saffron shirt flank guard of Modi’s BJP, waged war on the Muslims. The police first looked on passively. They later shot some Muslims to justify their presence. About 60 have already died.
Modi untroubled, only wanted Indians to see how familiar he was to mighty Trump. He bear-hugged Trump repeatedly with his head nestling on Trump’s chest. Trump looked on bewildered and bemused. Trump in the election year was willing to suffer Modi. He has a beady eye on the 4 million (East) Indian American votes in the USA. They however normally vote for the Democrats.
Modi, close to becoming an international you know what, greeted Trump deliriously with a one man show. He had planned the visit concentrating on massive numbers that would make Trump gasp. North Indian Bangra dancers formlessly gyrating back and forth together with camels high stepping too greeted Trump. What a pity that South India’s classical dance form Bharata Natyam was not on display. It was followed by a slow-motion drive past 26 kms watched by curious Indians. Slums and ‘Make in India’ rudimentary sanitary facilities were hidden.
The Trumps visited the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram at Sabarmati first. It was craftily chosen by Modi to hypocritically pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi, the super star of non-violence and peace whose legacy is fading in India thanks to Modi and his Hindutva BJP. Trump is not averse to racism too but denies it even after calling Covid 19 Chinese flu!
Trump’s odd entry in the visitor’s book at the ashram may show he was confused or bewildered by the significance of the visit. Had he even forgotten Gandhi’s name? Trump wrote ‘to my great friend Modi. Thank you for this WONDERFUL VISIT”. It had just started. His wife Melania, looking rather spare, was kept standing while Trump sat and wrote and continued sitting after writing. What extraordinary manners but quite the norm in India. Could he not have asked a chair for his wife to sit on?
The next stop was where over 125,000 sweating Indians were packed into the 110,000 capacity Sardar Patel (Matera) stadium, rebuilt on the site of the previously hardly used and then demolished one. The new one cost US $ 110 million. It is said to be the biggest cricket stadium in the world. Demolition was mother’s milk for Gujarat under Modi. Trump did not show disappointment though he had chirped that 5 million Indians would be present to hear him. He should try visiting China.
Modi as host made his speech first. He welcomed ‘India’s friend, my friend ‘Doland’ Trump’. Did he say ‘Donny’ too? Trump not to be outdone thanked ‘his faithful and loyal friend PM Moody’ whose first name must have been too much even for a loyal friend. This is after all better than ‘Modi’ in Sinhala. It describes a female fool but fondly.
After Modi‘s short speech, the ecstatic crowd, used to hearing him speak last, fretted to disperse. Trump however held forth for 27 minutes with his bewildering and entertaining discharges. Clumsily if not boorishly he, born to money, recalled that PM “Moody” had started as a ‘tea boy’ pronounced ‘chee walla’ and rose to become PM.
“I wish to see the United States the dominant power of the Pacific Ocean”. ……….. “Our future history will be more determined by our position on the Pacific facing China than by our position on the Atlantic facing Europe”…… (Theodore Roosevelt 1898).
Trump was transfixed. Yet he tiptoed diplomatically when he spoke at what looked like a Fuehrer rally without the Swastika. He cautioned softly that the USA was ‘working with Pakistan’ with whom the USA had a ‘very good relationship’ and was a ‘defence partner’. He also deftly slipped in the fear of Christians, amongst other minorities in India. Was this just in case Modi was looking for a ‘Make in India’ licence for a ‘final solution’ as soon as Trump bugged out?.
Trump discreetly avoided speaking about Modi strangulating Kashmir, violating constitutional safeguards, imposing quarantine and unleashing 600,000 troops, known for committing atrocities over the last 70 years. These were the least aggressive Muslims in the world. There have been 70, 000 deaths over the years. A similarity in tactics with another western leader 75 years ago, may serve as a grim reminder of an apocalypse to come.
Being all at sea with the Indian scene and its traditions, much of it Mogul and British, he attempted familiarity bringing in Bollywood and cricket with which he is completely at sea. Trump spoke of one “Suchin Tendulkar” that may have made the Chinese if not the Indians reel. He wrestled, gulped and finally nearly choked with his rolling half closed eyes about to pop out, on one ‘Viveka- mu-mund’ (Vivekananda) too. Determined to show off his Cook’s tour knowledge of India, he wandered erratically from the Salt march, Ganges ‘sacred banks’, Taj Mahal, Himalayas, Golden Temple and the Jama Masjid and the religious diversity of India. Yet he left out Buddhism (over 8 million and 0.8% in India and over 400 million in the world) and India’s first religion Jainism (0.6%) but included the Jewish faith (0.2%) for good measure. He apparently had not heard of King Asoka and the Buddha. He may not have heard of Akbar, Tippu Sultan, Ranjit Singh or Shivaji. The crowd however responded wildly sending Trump into raptures.
He had to speak of Gujarat’s 182 m high Sardar Vallabhabhai Statue of Unity built at a cost of IRS 3,000 crore (US$ 430 million). Modi had invidiously compared it to the Statue of Liberty. This is in a land that has a per person income of IRs 11,254, and at least half of 400 million who used to defecate in the open when Modi became PM, still do so enthusiastically. India is 112 in the World Poverty Index (SL is 67)
The poor rural tribal farmers of Narmada district protested that it was a ‘wasteful extravagance in the midst of poverty’. They, living on parched lands like half the Indian population, have to depend on scarce ground water. They demanded water for their fields. 320,000 protested and 150 were given ‘adequate’ subsidies. Agriculture increased in the whole of India by just 0.2% last year.
There is actually a rush on statues. Maharashtra is still struggling with its own statue of warrior Shivaji. A God Ram statue is also in the making. There are dozens of other Gods. Apparently, tourism will pay for these statues. Does Modi worry? He prefers hugging Trump.
Patel was Gandhi’s no 2 in the nonviolent campaign to oust the British. It succeeded. It was hailed throughout the world. He became Deputy Prime Minister Post Independence. He was called the ‘Iron Man’ (copied in Indian style from Germany’s Bismarck) mainly for bringing into the Union of India at Independence the 600 odd princely states.
Gandhi inspired and guided Martin Luther King (Jr) in his struggle to win equal rights for the oppressed and racially segregated African Americans in the USA in the 1960s.
When King (Jr) visited India he said he was ‘visiting the land of Gandhi’. He also said Gandhi was the ‘greatest Christian of the modern world’. He believed that Gandhi ‘greatly revealed the working of the spirit of God’. At the King memorial in Georgia there is a statue of Gandhi. President Trump back in the USA who was silent on the King in India, declared 20 January ‘Martin Luther King Federal holiday’. So Trump knew him too! Interestingly it is said Tolstoy who was also a Russian military officer who fought in the Napoleonic and Crimean wars, may have inspired Gandhi and King.
Nelson Mandela too opted strongly at first for Gandhi’s non-violent and civil disobedience actions to protest the barbarity of Apartheid in South Africa. Gandhi’s march of Indians on Natal was an eye opener to the ANC. Mandela however used Gandhi’s actions such as Satyagraha, (truth/love force) and fasting as a tactic and not simply on principle. He was realistic. He knew he was dealing with intractable Boers and not the liberal British.
The BJP however glorifies not the internationally famous, respected and revered Gandhi but Subash Chandra Bose who joined Hitler and Japan in WW2. His JIFs (Japanese Inspired Force) killed Indian soldiers fighting in the same war on the side of the British. Some of Bose’s men fought in SS units for the Nazis. Godse. who murdered Gandhi, was a supporter of Bose. Modi uses the Patel name to counter the Nehru legacy. Modi met the news of 70 odd mob killings, almost all Muslims, while the President of the USA was visiting India’s capital Delhi, with a calculated and shocking silence.
The Trumps in splendid isolation then visited Shah Jehan’s wondrous Taj Mahal. The environs had been swept clean for 60 hours. Indian commandos (the same that took 2 weeks days to subdue 4 terrorists in Bombay, sniffed all over the place. 25,000 pots of flowers were spread needlessly around the grounds. Trump wrote rapturously “The Taj Mahal inspires awe, a timeless testament to the rich and diverse beauty of Indian culture. Thank you India”.
Did no one tell Trump that Modi’s strategy was aimed at slowly erasing all things Muslim or even diverse. The Taj Mahal was allowed to deteriorate by the BJP. One fears to think what future plans (demolition?) he has for other illustrious Jain, Mogul (Muslim), and Buddhist and Christian heritage sites from North to South India.
Delhi had seen worse mob assaults in 1984 when the same Hindu mobs killed 8-17,000 Sikhs in 40 cities, 3,000 of them in this same Delhi. It is also the rape capital of the world in addition to be smog bound in winter and dangerously polluted always. There are thousands of open air lavatories too. It stinks. Trump’s daughter Ivanka would not dare to come to India as a tourist. Modi did well to bring the exhausted Trumps into Delhi only when it was nearly night fall. They could however hardly fail to see the fires raging.
The next day at the Raj Ghat memorial to Gandhi in Delhi as murder, arson and rape continued unabated, Trump had been given something to say about Gandhi. He wrote profoundly “The American people stand strongly with a SOVEREIGN AND WONDERFUL INDIA – the vision of the great Mahatma Gandhi” (The capitals are his). Comparisons with Obama’s erudite comments on Gandhi are superfluous.
Trump had at least remembered Gandhi. WONDERFUL! However Melania was kept standing again.
Did Trump know that even as he spoke that vision of Gandhi had been under severe siege in ‘wonderful India’ ever since Modi took power. It had been smashed for six recently and now. The mobs undoubtedly consisted almost wholly of Modi’s BJP and JSS. It wasn’t exactly Kristal Nacht but must serve as a warning to all but the dumb. Trump kept mum. Shades of Chamberlain in 1939.
At Rashtrapati Bhavan it was disconcerting to see the officer in charge of the military guard of honour tripping differentially behind Trump during the inspection of the troops. In other countries the officer commanding keeps abreast proudly. Trump, unlike Theodore Roosevelt, having dodged military service unlike Theodore Roosevelt, and with his guilty conscience hovering over him whenever military uniforms come into view, cast nary a look at the troops he was inspecting. WONDERFUL.
Within weeks after his India visit the pandemic Covid- 19 that Trump gleefully said was a special ‘made in China’ product, started raging in the USA. At first he said the USA had tackled it ’beautifully’. He has now declared a national emergency as confirmed cases were 6,422 on 18 March. Rumours are becoming ugly as to where and how it started. As for India (142 within a few days) where it will soon go completely out of control, the best that can be said is quoted below. These 2 leaders were cock of the walk a few days before. Will they now fail their countries as never before? Sri Lanka thankfully is separated by 22 miles of sea. However the Hanuman legend could come true if SL lets its guard down.
“Thankfully this (Corona virus) did not start in somewhere like India because there is no way that the quality of the Indian governance could move to react in the way that the Chinese have done and that is the good side of the Chinese model” (Jim O Neill –Chief Economist Golden Sachs)