Is inviting President of the United States Donald Trump to be the chief guest at next year's Republic Day parade an act of weakness? Does it indicate the government's nervousness in its need to pander or a stroke of genius?
As Trump draws a certain amount of traction in his own country and his clowning and buffoonery has a thread of smarts about it, one would like to think that having him in India six months from now is a pretty sensible move to have the world's two largest democracies on the same page.
Trump does not dislike India; he has a grudging admiration for the country, if anything, and is a little wary because India is overwhelming. Her people invade quietly and patiently, and one morning, you wake up to the fact that your employee is now your boss.
And what better way than the January 26 carnival to showcase India. Be it the Moscow May Day parade, the goose-stepping Chinese military extravaganza, or even the presidential inaugural parade in the US, India's Republic Day celebration in Delhi has them beat. The sheer splashes of cultural and military splendour, the pomp and ceremony of the three hours have an almost imperial arrogance about them. Just the arrival of the President of India with his chief guest, accompanied by his mounted bodyguards, makes the Queen Elizabeth's Coldstream Guards pale in comparison.
Then there is the locale. The sweep of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the North and South Blocks, the vista of Vijay Chowk and the buzz of the public gathered all together are a sight. At the parade, India showcases her might, tradition and youth, in an occasion where she cannot be beaten.
Although the White House has yet to accept the invitation, it would be quite difficult to refuse. Also, backdoor conversations and discussions must have been held before the invitation was made public. If Trump refused this honour, he would lose a great deal of an already-limited goodwill in India, and it is doubtful that the Narendra Modi government would expose itself to ridicule from the Opposition, in case Trump passes on the invite. Modi must already know that the US has accepted the invitation to put himself out on a limb.
So let us assume Trump will be in India on 26 January, 2019. Whether it is the concern over Washington's H1-B visa policy or disagreements over tariffs levied, this would be a great occasion to make Trump realise that India enshrines the same values and freedoms as his young democracy. India has survived centuries of foreign occupation and still held her own.
A section of people will be displeased about the need for niceties with Trump. They will say he is anti-Indian and boorish, has no courtesy and is even disliked in his own country. The last one is pretty much moot, as it remains a fact that he really is the President of the United States not by accident but by choice.
You cannot pretend he is not.
So why not show off and play host to the hilt? The visuals would be great as Trump's presence at the Republic Day parade would take the theatrics of security to another level, and the accompanying entourage will be powerful. They will address their Indian counterparts on matters of finance, travel, commerce, education and military purchase.
There is nothing to lose if Donald Trump is the man of the hour come 26 January.
Updated Date: Jul 14, 2018 18:21 PM