Did Trump speak to PM Modi? No, he didn’t. But did Xi Jinping?

An inordinately long time was spent on Friday by TV channels discussing whether US President had actually spoken to PM Modi or whether it was the CIA which told him the Indian PM was in a bad mood

Did Trump speak to PM Modi? No, he didn’t. But did Xi Jinping?
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Uttam Sengupta

It is admittedly a mystery why the US President claimed to have spoken to Prime Minister Modi and why Indian Government sources scotched it, saying firmly that the two had not spoken since April. They also volunteered that when the two spoke in April, it was about supplying the drug Hydroxycholoquine, the malaria-treating drug that Trump believed would cure COVID-19 patients.

If India didn’t allow the export of the drug to the US in sufficient quantity, the US President had then said, it would be ‘OK’ but there would be retaliation. He of course said it at a White House briefing.

Of course ‘Dolan’ Trump, as PM Modi fondly calls him, is equally fond of the Prime Minister. On multiple occasions he has said as much; that PM Modi is a good man, that they are friends, that PM Modi is hugely popular, that on Facebook and Twitter he is only next to @realDonaldtrump but that is because India has millions and millions of people!

Occasionally they have had what looked like lovers’ tiff. The US President publicly said that the Indian Prime Minister had called to inform him that import duty on the iconic Harvey Davidson motorcycles made in the US had been reduced. It was breathtaking stuff, the PM calling the White House to report that import duty on a specific good had been slashed. But did it make Trump happy? No. He scoffed and said that though Modi was a good man, the reduction of import duty was no big deal. India had to do more.

The Indian PM did reciprocate the US President’s gesture in attending the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston last year by filling up the Motera, the largest cricket stadium in the world, for the Namaste Trump event in February this year.

So, when Dolan Trump said at the White House that he had spoken to the Indian Prime Minister and that Modi was in a bad mood over the ‘big conflict’ going on between India and China, it was sensational but it turns out that he was completely wrong.

There is no chance of escalation of the Ladakh scuffles, assure foreign policy wonks and former mandarins. So, who told Trump that it was a big conflict going on between India and China? Even the foreign offices of the two countries have chosen to be quiet or say that they are talking to ease the situation. What a relief.

But Trump’s statement did him no credit. Whoever heard of the US President lying in public about a conversation he apparently never had? Nor does it reflect well on the CIA, assuming it had briefed the US President on the big conflict underway in Ladakh. The US spy satellites wouldn’t have been wrong surely? Or perhaps the very real Donald Trump has destroyed the CIA, as his friend has damaged so many institutions beyond repair.

But that is not my big worry. My worry is why Xi Jinping or his deputy or the Chinese Prime Minister didn’t call Prime Minister Modi. Although PM Modi is in very good mood, preparing to celebrate the completion of the first year of his second term and address the nation on Sunday in his monthly radio talk, the Chinese, as a matter of courtesy, could have called to wish him at least.

The lack of communication between the two leaders worries me. Didn’t they have coconut water together and sat on a swing? Wasn’t Xi Jinping given a guided tour of the Sabarmati waterfront by Prime Minister Modi himself? And yet, the Chinese President can’t even make a call, even after the real ‘Dolan’ Trump communicated to the world that Modi was in a bad mood? Really not done.

What also worries me is that Chinese intrusions in Ladakh are being reported in the media over the last 10 years, if not longer. Every second month reports would appear about an intrusion, only to be denied after 24, 48 or 72 hours by the same sources, I suspect, which planted the reports in the first place.

Big players play big games. And ordinary mortals like us cannot be expected to comprehend the moves. As in games, you win some and lose some, I guess. But not talking on the hotline is worrying, even if you have won or lost the game. People need to be graceful in victory and in defeat, you see ?

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