By Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Almost a quarter century ago, a memoir titled Prozac Nation swept through the United States, referring to the antidepressant pill that helped beat the blues. Now, we are in an age of a global bipolar disorder, with the principal cause of that malady being the 45th President of the United States, Donald J Trump.
It’s a year since Trump was inaugurated and became the latest occupant of the Oval Office. In that period, or what appears like an aeon, he has divided the world into those that are tormented by him and those that tolerate him.
His comments on the origin nations of some immigrants have placed him into yet another hole, that, almost certainly he will dig deeper into in the second year of his term. The complaints from the African Union to El Salvador to Haiti are adding to the United Nations roster of Trump-phobia. His predecessor Barack Obama was often — and often justifiably — accused of leading from behind. Trump is leading with affront.
The unfortunate consequence of this strategy based on weaponised Twitter is that even when Trump is supporting the right cause, few want to be seen to be in agreement. Take, for instance, his administration’s approach to the protests in Iran, which was worth backing, but many backed away from that, not wanting to be on any Trump bandwagon. That trend has exhibited itself with North Korea’s missile rattling, China’s use of trade and investment as a policy battering ram, and even the partial defunding of the bankrolling of Pakistan’s bad behaviour.
In fact, the US’ closest allies are keeping their distance. From Canada suing America in the WTO over lumber barriers, to London turning into a no-go zone for him, he has dug a global hole for America, with or without a prefixed expletive.
India, however, is within the small group of countries that won’t be as offended by Washington. From focusing on the Indo-Pacific, to choking Islamabad, there is much for New Delhi to welcome, even as a looming H-1B logjam is on the backburner, at least for now.
So far, though, India has played it smart. Despite the chumminess on the surface between Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it hasn’t booked a passage on the Trump train. The vote against moving the capital of Israel to Jerusalem was evidence of this unwillingness to be railroaded by Washington. That may well be the sane recourse; not to unhinge itself from the traditional path of caution, even if the trajectory of closer cooperation with the US is clear.
That makes India an exception; unlike feelings in the capitals of most countries, where Trump’s version of going on the offensive is just that.
This has been a time of strong medicine for the world, prescribed by Trump, and often, dispensed as bitter pills. And that’s enough to further the mood swings in the age of Trumphalism.
Hindustan Times, January 20, 2018