Every self-respecting Indian knows that when it comes to snacks, nothing sells like an Indian snack. The puzzle is, this was not evident in Ahmedabad, where the “high tea” menu for Trump, his family and delegation was singularly uninspiring. Dhokla okay but corn broccoli samosa! Good grief. The tweeple were in revolt. Maybe given the President’s preference for burgers and steaks, the powers-that-be could have got McDonald’s into the game. Or if they wanted to go the whole hog with the Indian menu, they could have tapped good old Haldiram!
Donald Trump is not your conventional, politically correct U.S. President. So no eyebrows were raised when he mangled Indian names and words although it was noticed. But when he failed to make the ritual reference to the Father of the Nation at the visitor’s register in Sabarmati Ashram, all hell broke loose. Tweeple registered their outrage. Die-hard Gandhi followers were upset but restrained. Many recalled former President Barack Obama whose words shine out from that same register. He had written: “I am filled with hope and inspiration and I have the privilege to view this testament to Gandhi’s life. He is a hero not just to India to the world.”
This may not be in keeping with current times but the Taj is always a show stopper. The Trump family was clearly awe-struck by the beauty of the Taj Mahal which they visited late Monday afternoon. The President wrote in the Visitor’s Book: “TheTaj Mahal inspires awe. A timeless testament to the rich, and diverse beauty of Indian culture! Thank you India.” Daughter Ivanka tweeted her photograph with the Taj in the background and the words: “The grandeur and beauty of the Taj Mahal is awe inspiring.”
Ahead of US President Donald Trump’s India visit, Washington and New Delhi don’t appear to be on the same page as far as the visit to the Taj Mahal is concerned. The US government released the transcript of a Friday briefing by senior administration officials where they were quoted as saying that the President Trump and wife Melania will be accompanied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their visit to the monument of love. The official statement said, “The President and the First Lady will then go with Prime Minister Modi to visit the Taj in Agra.” New Delhi was quick to rebut that in delightful diplomatese. “The visit to Taj Mahal will afford them the opportunity to view the historical monument suitably. Therefore, no official engagements or presence of senior dignitaries from the Indian side is envisaged there.” Somebody in the Trump administration clearly tripped up on this one.
As is the norm during such a high octane visit, President Trump will be accompanied by a heavy-weight 12-member official delegation during his two-day India trip. Nothing unusual in that though as an Indian diplomat told StratNews Global, the Americans always come with a large delegation including subject experts. In contrast, visiting Indian official delegations tend to be much smaller. Both Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are part of this delegation. While Ivanka is Assistant and Advisor to the President, her husband Jared is Assistant and Senior Advisor to the President. Others who will be part of the delegation are Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Energy Secretary Dan Brouilette and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.
There’s yet another controversy that’s erupted surrounding Trump’s visit. First Lady Melania is to visit a Delhi government school on January 25 where she will be attending a ‘happiness class’ with the students. The class is a flagship venture of the Delhi government to help students reduce stress levels. While there were reports earlier that recently Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his No.2 Manish Sisodia would be present at the school, by Saturday morning reports surfaced saying that this wasn’t the case. There were also conflicting reports on who was responsible for dropping these two leaders. Was it the Centre given the fraught relations between the BJP and Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, or the US embassy? Or, was it simply because it’s only protocol being followed with neither the chief ministers of Gujarat or Uttar Pradesh being invited for Trump’s roadshow in Ahmedabad and or during the visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra.