Yes, we did describe the meeting at the White House between President Trump & Prime Minister Modi as Better Than Expected and Strategic, but isn’t it hyperbole to compare a nascent America-India relationship with the enduring & deep relationship between America & Israel? Perhaps yes or perhaps No?
Israel is one of America’s deepest relationships and an enormously strategic one. In a critical region that impacts world peace & which sits right in the middle of the Asia-Europe land & sea corridor, Israel is the rock. Allies, even critical allies, have come & gone over the past 70 years, but Israel stands & remains firm for itself & for America. Heck, if Israel didn’t exist, America would have had to build one. The strong US-Israel relationship also rests on shared values; Americans instinctively identify with Israel over every other Middle Eastern country. So how can a budding America-India relationship even hope to compare with the America-Israel relationship?
Yes, India is getting more important to America – fastest growing economy, largest middle class & soon the world’s largest population and all that. But, as Pickering & Trivedi wrote in their Project Syndicate article, these “… have not always proved sufficient to capture the sustained attention of US decision-makers.”
Enter Trump. Nothing matters more in international relations than personal rapport between leaders of nations. As Ian Bremmer, no fan of President Trump, wrote in his Politico article on Friday “A President Hillary Clinton would likely have kept her distance from Narendra Modi and his muscular nationalism, but Trump’s personal chemistry with Modi is evident at every encounter“. And it is not just rapport. As Bremmer added, “Anxiety over China’s continuing rise gives Trump and Modi something very basic in common“.
That is a big deal and Israel-like. Long an Atlantic & Pacific power, America is now seriously focused on the Indian Ocean. The greatest strategic interest of America is control of the world’s oceans to guarantee navigation. That is why the American Navy is the world’s largest & most dominant fleet and will remain so for the intermediate future.
Now that America is virtually self-sufficient in energy and an exporter of natural gas, the Indian ocean is increasingly more critical to America than the Middle East. And the Indian ocean connects the two most important shipping choke points in the world, the Straits of Hormuz that controls maritime traffic from & to the Middle East & and Straits of Malacca that controls the access to the Indian Ocean from Southeast & North Asia. The world’s largest economies China, Japan, & ASEAN (a $3 trillion bloc) depend on these two straits for their economic growth & survival.
A sub-continent size India sits right in the middle of these two straits with the potential to control the entire maritime sphere from the Straits of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca. This is not theoretical. The British Navy did precisely that from its bases in British-occupied India.
Enter Trump. Read what Pickering (prior US Ambassador to Russia, Israel, India, Jordan, and the United Nations) and Trivedi (stints at the US Commerce Department, State Department, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee) wrote in their article Trump’s Surprisingly Strong Start with India:
- “India abuts crucial global shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. And it serves as an important democratic bulwark in Asia … Judging by Modi’s recent visit, … Trump’s administration … appears keen to build on bilateral security cooperation as a key tenet of its Asia policy. … The Trump administration seems to recognize that, at a time when rapid power shifts in Asia could affect regional stability, an increasingly confident India can help the US in underwriting security. It can work alongside the US to engage constructively with an ascendant China, not just to support economic growth and protect the environment, but also to ensure that China’s decisions help to sustain, rather than undermine, peace and prosperity in Asia“.
Isn’t this similar to the America-Israel relationship? Without Israel, America would have had to devote far greater resources & build more regional bases to guarantee security & commerce in the rich Persian Gulf region. And without India, America would have to devote far greater resources & build new regional bases to guarantee security & commerce in the Indian Ocean. And where would these bases be built? In unstable & terrorism prone regimes like NaPakistan & BanglaDesh?
We all know the depth of the military engagement between America & Israeli defense forces. What about India & America? Read what Real Admiral Byrne said after the massive Malabar Exercise that just took place in the Indian Ocean between American Navy, Indian Navy & Japanese Navy:
- Manu PubbyVerified account @manupubby If there is an international crisis in the Indian Ocean, US and Japan will come down to help, that’s what Malabar is about – Admiral Byrne.
The exact quote reads:
- “If there is an international crisis in the Indian Ocean, the Japanese Navy would come to assist, the United States Navy would come to assist; because of Malabar we would know each other & we would be able to come together immediately in order to communicate better, to co-operate better & to address any maritime challenge we might face”
What does a joint US-Indian-Japanese naval task force with 3 aircraft carriers look like?
How much of this is Trump-Modi? As Pickering & Trivedi wrote:
- “Modi and Trump also demonstrated additional clarity and solidarity on confronting terrorism, by asking Pakistan to do more to disrupt extremist sanctuaries in its territory. A less permissive US approach toward Pakistan is not only likely to contribute to South Asia’s security; it can also help to reverse deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan, where America remains mired in its longest-ever war.”
How important is President Trump for Prime Minister Modi & India? Ian Bremmer answered it in his politico article:
- “Indian leaders have long hoped for a U.S. president who shares their view of the risks posed by China’s ambitions and Pakistan’s militants. Modi knows he has one”
Everyone knows that the America-Israeli relationship is also driven by the power of the Jewish lobby in Washington DC. But what many don’t know is the rise in influence of the Indian community in Washington DC. The Indian community is getting better in marshalling Indian-American CEOs of major companies, the large network of Indian small businesses to exert positive influence in Washington DC and in state capitals. And the fact that Modi-Netanyahu are building a deep strategic & economic partnership between India & Israel adds a strong positive to the Indian community’s drive towards greater influence in DC & state capitals in America.
But there remains a big difference between the treatment of Israelis & Indian, at least from American Think Tanks & American media. While they respect Judaism & Jewish culture (at least in public), these America’s self-proclaimed elite are obvious & public about their contempt for Indian Dharma & Indian Culture. While they welcome the positive synergy coming from Prime Minister Modi, they keep showing their personal contempt by mispronouncing “Modi”. While most of them do it out of ignorance, some TV networks mispronounce “Modi” deliberately & knowingly.
And not just TV networks. Take for example, Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow at Council of Foreign Relations for India/Pakistan/SAsia. Ms. Ayers served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Asia in the first Obama term. As we recall, Ms. Ayers is fluent in Urdu and so she naturally should be familiar with Hindi. Yet, Ms. Ayres has done nothing to teach her colleagues at CFR how to correctly pronounce Modi ( with a soft d as in Mo-thee). We used to think that is because she doesn’t really care about how names are pronounced. Then we saw her tweet on Friday:
- Alyssa AyresVerified account @AyresAlyssa – Alyssa Ayres Retweeted BBC Hindi- BBC Hindi thinks Sean (pron. like “Shawn”) is pronounced “Seen”:
Hmmm! Ms. Ayres uses Twitter to reprimand a Hindi anchor for mispronouncing Sean Spicer’s first name but she has, to our knowledge, never ever corrected an American anchor for mispronouncing Prime Minister Modi’s last name.
Of course, America-Israel relationship did go thru some of this stuff, like a reference to Jews as “imperfect Christians” from a well known writer. No one does that today, probably because of the massive outrage that created among the Jewish community.
That in itself is a lesson to the Indian community. When they become active in reprimanding American TV anchors & American think tankers about the almost weekly abuses hurled at Indian Dharma & Indian Culture, then India will begin getting respect from America’s “elite”. And the first indicator of that will be when a National US Financial TV network with an Indian managing editor begins using the correct pronunciation of Prime Minister Modi’s last name.
Getting back to Alyssa Ayres, we did ask her in a tweet on Friday:
- Editor Viewpoint @MacroViewpoints Replying to @AyresAlyssa
Question -Have u EVER corrected US anchors mispronouncing PM Modi’s name (pron – Mo-thee) ?
We are still waiting for a response from Ms. Ayres.
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