Trump-Modi Meet: Hugs Draw Humour as US Media Brings up China, Muslims
THE CITIZEN BUREAU
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with United States President Donald Trump, with the meeting between the two leaders being closely followed in India. This was the first time the two have met, with PM Modi inviting the US President and his wife, Melania Trump, as well as daughter Ivanka to visit India.
While the Indian press covered the meeting has been on a blitz with live coverage and key point takeaways, the foreign media is taking a larger global, as well as a more personal view of the two leaders and their agreements.
The New York Times began an article on the meeting with the statement: “President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, two nationalist leaders with a shared passion for social media, met on Monday as India sought to vie with China for Mr. Trump’s favor in the region.”
The article goes on to quote an unnamed White House official who says that President Trump’s warm words for the Indian PM were partly related to China, as Washington has failed to break ground with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. “Mr. Trump lavished praise on Mr. Modi, calling him a “true friend” with ambitious plans to fight corruption and cut taxes. The two men also share a devotion to Twitter and Facebook to bypass the news media and reach their publics directly. The display of warmth, a senior White House official said, was at least partly aimed at President Xi Jinping of China, who has disappointed Mr. Trump in recent weeks by failing to impose more pressure on neighboring North Korea to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” the article states.
NYT then delved into recent points of concern between the two countries. “Yet the mutual admiration masked a more complicated dynamic between India and the United States. While ties between the two have grown steadily closer over the last two decades, India faces new uncertainties with Mr. Trump, who has shown less interest than his predecessors in maintaining a web of trade and security alliances in Asia. India, like other countries in the region, has watched Mr. Trump’s cultivation of Mr. Xi with concern. His trade and immigration policies, particularly limits on visas commonly used by technology workers from India, have added to the jitters, as did his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.”
The article goes on to draw parallels between President Trump and PM Modi, specifically in regard to anti-Muslim rhetoric. “Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump have much in common, including a history of anti-Muslim rhetoric, a nationalist focus on homegrown manufacturing, a fraught relationship with the news media, and electoral campaigns that benefited from the proliferation of fake news. In Mr. Modi’s case, supporters of his party circulated fake videos in 2013 of two Hindus being lynched by a Muslim mob. The videos led to rioting that killed 44 people, displaced 42,000 others and split a historical voting alliance between lower-caste Hindus and Muslims. That helped give Mr. Modi a substantial majority in the lower house of Parliament.”
The Washington Post in an article that focused on the fact that reporters were not allowed to ask either of the two leaders any questions, also referred to the restriction of media coverage and flow of information as a parallel between President Trump and PM Modi. “This month, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation raided the homes and offices of top television executives whose news channel NDTV has often clashed with Modi’s government,” the article states, using the recent NDTV raids as an example.
An Opinion piece appearing in the Washington Post goes on to detail the similarities. “Trump and Modi are alike in many ways. They both came to power on populist, nationalist waves with promises to confront Islamist terrorism and stand up to China. Both rule large democracies with a clear interest in increasing their security and economic and diplomatic cooperation. Their social media followings currently rank first and second, respectively, among world leaders,” writes Josh Rogin.
The Associate Press put forth a lighter note, focussing on PM Modi’s reputation of hugging world leaders. “President Donald Trump should have been ready as he met with India’s prime minister, an unabashed hugger. Smiling widely at a news conference Monday during a visit to Washington, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the president’s outstretched arm not as an invitation for a handshake, but as a pull toward an embrace. Then he did it again in the White House Rose Garden. Then once more before leaving.”
“Trump appeared stiff and uncomfortable with the first hug, smiling thinly and patting Modi on the back a couple of times. But it was the same folksy, effusive greeting Modi has used with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, and a host of foreign dignitaries and celebrities, from former French President Francois Hollande, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Hollywood’s Hugh Jackman,” the article states.
The article, however, moved to a more serious tone, bringing up the Gujarat 2002 riots and the subsequent political isolation of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. “Modi’s chummy overtures mark a stark change from years of being shunned by American officials because of religious violence in his home state of Gujarat. He had been denied a U.S. visa in 2005 over suspicions about his possible role in religious riots that killed more than 1,000 Muslims when he was Gujarat’s top official. Since he became prime minister in 2014, he has visited the U.S. four times. But allegations of intolerance against Muslims and foreign-funded activists have dogged his Hindu nationalist party and government, which has been criticized for not speaking out against deadly attacks.”
The hug, however, made it to CNN’s headline in a story on the meeting between the two leaders. “Trump and Modi reaffirm Indian-US relations with a hug,” began with the paragraph “the first face-to-face meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sealed with a bear hug Monday, as the two leaders looked to publicly underscore their new found friendship.”