By Arré Bench Sep. 30, 2020
India was mentioned twice by Donald Trump during the first presidential debate with Joe Biden. However, the US president had nothing nice to say about his “great friend” Modi’s country. He said our Covid-19 numbers can’t be trusted and clubbed us with China and Russia for sending “dirt” in the air.
America hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the “Howdy Modi” event in Boston, Texas with great fanfare last September. India returned the favour with the “Namaste Trump” gala at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad this February. Modi and Donald Trump hugged, praised each other, held hands, whatnot. The US president even tried to appease Indian-American voters during campaigning by invoking his “friendship” with PM Modi. One was led to believe that they were the new BFFs in the global order.
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) February 24, 2020
But as we know all “friendships” in politics are transactional. Ask the BJP and Shiv Sena back home. Trump proved this on Thursday evening during his first presidential debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump threw India under the bus – not once but twice – while defending his government’s coronavirus response and while talking about the world’s biggest polluters. A minute’s silence for all “Indians for Trump” brigade in the US, as well as back home.
“When you talk about numbers, you don’t know how many people died in China, you don’t know how many people died in Russia, you don’t know how many people died in India. They don’t exactly give you a straight count,” Trump said, countering Biden’s accusations that the pandemic was not handled well by the US.
PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: Trump begins his defence of his record on coronavirus by blaming China, claiming numbers from China, Russia and India can’t be trusted. Goes onto attack Biden’s disagreement with closing US to China #debates2020 pic.twitter.com/pqQGG8clfI
— 10 News First (@10NewsFirst) September 30, 2020
America is currently the worst-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic, with over seven million cases and 200,000 deaths. India has also struggled to keep the virus in check, with the case count crossing six million and 96,000 deaths. Administrations in both countries have come under strong criticism for their response to the pandemic.
The pandemic wasn’t the only reason that India was mentioned during the debate. Trump brought up his “great friend” Modi’s country again during a discussion on climate change, grouping us in the same league as Russia and China. “China sends up real dirt into the air. Russia does. India does. They all do,” he said, defending the US’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. He argued that restrictions under the accord were unfair to the US and would result in huge job losses in the country.
And President Trump, while talking about pollution, again lumped India with China and Russia for sending “dirt” in the air. pic.twitter.com/l4wenGHQ2y
— Seema Sirohi (@seemasirohi) September 30, 2020
While Trump mentioned India twice during the first presidential debate, Joe Biden stayed clear from any such name-calling. Trump’s comments have drawn attention from politician commentators in India. Veteran journalist Shekhar Gupta said, “Trump is holding up the mirror for legions of his fans in India. Dumping his “ally” with the two big rivals. You can see that he has zero respect for India, forget any affection.”
Trump is holding up the mirror for legions of his fans in India. Dumping his “ally” with the two big rivals. You can see that he has zero respect for India, forget any affection.
— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) September 30, 2020
Niha Masih, Indian correspondent for Washington Post, pointed out that it was the second time in two days that India has been mentioned in the same league as authoritarian regimes like Russia and China, by the US President.
India finds mention in #PresidentialDebate2020. Trump says China, Russia, India don’t give straight answers, real numbers on COVID deaths. Second time in two days that India finds itself in the same league as authoritarian regimes like Russia and China.
— Niha Masih (@NihaMasih) September 30, 2020
Suspended Congress leader Sanjay Jha stated that the government must respond to this accusation of being called a banana republic that can’t be trusted. “It is time to go beyond all the political bromance between Mr Modi and POTUS. The world heard that,” he tweeted.
Donald Trump makes nasty caustic dig at Indian #Covid numbers, openly suggesting that they are not reliable. India is being called a banana republic.
The government must respond. It is time to go beyond all the political bromance between Mr Modi and POTUS. The world heard that.
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) September 30, 2020
While “fans” of Trump in India try to recover from this shock, the sentiment in the Indian establishment can be aptly summarised with the Bollywood song: “Dost dost na raha, pyaar pyaar na rahe…”