Obama or Nixon: Which template will Donald Trump’s India trip ? While it was not a formal trip, the first occupant of the White House to property on the beaches of India has been Ulysses S Grant, and probably not the past with, let us say a dodgy sense of aesthetics. The 18th President of the USA, Grant served two successive terms in office between 1869 and 1877 and has been also the Commanding General of the US Army when the Civil War had been won. Shortly after his term ended, Grant and his wife Julia put on a two-and-a-half-year world tour which targeted to project the US as a external looking power prepared to participate with the world. Grant came in Mumbai at February 1879 aboard USS Richmond and undertook the usual excursion, on elephant back, to the Taj Mahal at Agra, whereupon the Grants believed it amazing but not over the Capitol Hill construction. Grant fulfilled the then Viceroy Robert Lytton at Kolkata and professed admiration for his father Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s books. In 1982, the San Jose State University instituted the yearly, tongue-in-cheek Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Competition to award the very worst possible opening lines of a book as a tribute to Bulwer-Lytton’s”It was a dark stormy night” in his 1830 job Paul Clifford. It was seen exactly what unwilling pupil Donald J Trump, the 45th President of the US on his own inaugural trip between February 24-26 makes of this spartan Sabarmati Ashram, the Taj Mahal, and also the’Kem Cho,” Trump’ rally in Ahmedabad at which PM Narendra Modi guarantees there will be”millions and millions” in presence. Past the bearhugs and protestations of good personal bond between the two leaders, that this trip carries a more transactional flavour compared to other recent presidential trips to India. Unlike in years past a trade agreement between both occupies centerstage, provided that the circumstance of Trump’s national policy priorities. Trump, the self-professed master of agreement making has lately dubbed India”agency king” in an discussion leading towards India’s propensity to greatly tax US exports like the high-end Harley Davidson motorcycles. India, instinctively wary of commerce deals today offers more reason to stress considering that the deteriorating health of export sector after business from stone and jewellery to textiles. India’s inability to take any significant advantage in return for higher American access to its domestic markets maybe explains its lack of excitement on front. But hey, we are at least speaking business. It was not like that consistently. The first-ever trip of a helping US President took 12 years before making because India’s independence. The week-long trip was a large success with Eisenhower travelling in an open car with tens of thousands lining the roads. Even with India fronting the clearly anti-West Non-Aligned Movement, Nehru, the amorous statesman and Eisenhower, the soldier, appeared to have struck it off. As Modi might personally reveal Trump across the Sabarmati Ashram, Nehru in 1959 provided the Eisenhowers a guided tour of the Taj. Eisenhower was lavish in his praise for India in the get-go. “In fulfilling a dream of several decades, I cover in person America’s tribute to Indian individuals, to their civilization, to their advancement as well as their potency among independent countries,” he announced on arrival, including it was a private pilgrimage of sorts. Not just that, in his speech to a special joint session of parliament, Eisenhower talked about American aid to India from the face of some external acts of aggression. It might be that both had cultivated over the acquaintance when Nehru was conferred an honorary doctorate by Columbia University at 1949 if Eisenhower had been its president. But things of trade hardly guessed. Maybe knowing Nehru’s not-so-charitable perspectives on American riches, there wasn’t any business delegation that followed Eisenhower–something that is a fundamental part of bilateral head of country visits at the twenty first century. In increasing heat of the Cold War that the bonhomie quickly vanished. Nehru’s reciprocal visit to the US at 1961 through John F Kennedy’s presidency was a testy affair awarded India’s embrace of Soviet Union. Richard Nixon’s trip a decade later Eisenhower could charitably be described as a tragedy. It was a 22-hour stopover compared to a full-scale country trip. You just have to scan the New York Times’ pages on the eve of Nixon’s trip to find an awareness of its absence of function. So broad was the gulf of distrust between both states, also India’s inconsequence in the bigger scheme of things none of the issues you would typically expect–South Asian regional equilibrium, the Indo-Pakistan arms race, unrest in East Pakistan or even the Chinese hazard –created the headlines. The traveling party was worried about droppings from Delhi’s trees.

“If Mr Nixon rides under clear skies using the very top of the bubblecar down, he’ll need to recall the fallout out of Delhi’s omnipresent Jamun trees. Their feline bounty, a semi-sour cherry like fruit with a large, tough pit, splatters indiscriminately on heads of passers from nowadays,” mentioned NYT. Not many were amazed when declassified US newspapers showed the contempt Nixon needed for Prime Minster Indira Gandhi. The opinion was certainly reciprocal. A year after, she returned the favour rather than touching Nixon’s feast for heads of state around the sidelines about the UN’s 25th anniversary parties. Jimmy Carter’s trip in 1978 too was not any more memorable than Nixon’s. Carter said he adored reading the Bhagwat Gita introduced by Prime Minister Morarji Desai. Carter in return provided Desai that the two-volume Journal of American author Henry Thoreau.

By 1947 to 2000, there’d just been three US presidential visits to India. Because 2000, counting Trump’s, there will be five. It was possibly an acknowledgement of India’s growing strategic and economic significance for the United States. While Bill Clinton charmed Indians at 2000 at the background of the Kargil war and signalled the end into post-Pokhran nuclear test sanctions, substantive gains were produced during George W Bush’s trip in 2006 with signing of this landmark civilian nuclear deal.

Barack Obama is the only US president to create two country visits to India in 2010 and 2015. The next, a hastily organized special invite as chief guest on Republic Day. In 2010, together with Manmohan Singh as PM, who Obama had known as a”Global Pro” in a G20 Summit because of his direction at diffusing the worldwide financial meltdown, the expectations were high. Both needed a reputation of being cerebral. Even though Obama’s celebrity quotient having been the first Black President of the US using a landslide triumph was in its summit, Singh also had won another term in office using a larger mandate for the Congress Party. The gush of heat appeared unstoppable. If Clinton de-hyphenated India and Pakistan, Bush spent plenty of private political capital on obtaining the atomic deal during, Obama followed the route of their predecessors with increased vigour. At least that is what it seemed back in 2010. In addition, in his speech to the joint session of parliament,” Obama openly endorsed India’s candidacy for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council–the first US President to do so.

By 2015, the Modi bearhug had well and truly arrived on the global diplomatic arena and Obama was one its ancient receivers. There was no parliamentary address in this brief trip, but sufficient time to get the guy derided as chaiwala to make a cup of tea within a televised tete-a-tete from the yards of the PM’s home. The notorious monogrammed Modi suit also created an appearance during this trip. Pomp, pageantry and symbolism trumped more than chemical.

Having a decelerating market that disturbs India’s hands on financial problems, would Trump’s go too go down this path? Perhaps, just maybe, unlike the Grants, Ivanka and Donald Trump may believe Taj more amazing than Trump Towers. An individual would not bet on it.

TR Vivek is a journalist based in Bengaluru. Twitter: @trvivek

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