We met in a garden not far from Agra’s beautiful Shiv temple, Tejo Mahalaya. As a demure FLOTUS served goat’s milk and broccoli samosa to POTUS, I began my interview
Regular readers of this column would know that I hate crowds. That’s one big reason I don’t do press conferences. Another reason is that our PM doesn’t do them either. A third reason is that I don’t like spending time and energy to land up at a place and sit through an hour of nonsense statements just to be able to ask one question, that too if you get lucky. The ROI is just not worth it.
So when POTUS, FLOTUS and OCTOPUS came to India, I made it very clear to American officials that I wouldn’t be attending any press conference. They had no choice but to organise an exclusive tête-à-tête between President Trump and yours truly. We met in a garden not far from Agra’s beautiful Shiv temple, Tejo Mahalaya. As a demure FLOTUS served goat’s milk and broccoli samosa to POTUS, I began my interview. Some excerpts:
Me: Shri Trump-ji, Namaste.
POTUS: No-Moose-Tray to you too, buddy!
Me: Sir, since this is your first official visit to India, can you please lavish some praise on us? We Indians, and especially our politicians, still suffer from a post-colonial inferiority complex. We need to have our puny self-esteem boosted by the validation of the world’s most powerful white man. Say some nice things?
POTUS: Sure. But what’s the deal?
Me: I give you my word that, in exchange for your passionate endorsement of India and Indians and the father (and son) of India, India will buy $3 billion worth of weapons from American companies.
(POTUS and I shake hands on the deal.)
POTUS: India is unbelievable. India has incredible energy. Wall to wall people. Never seen anything like it. India has given me the greatest welcome given by any country to any leader of any country anywhere in the world at any time. Unbelievable. Millions came to cheer me in Goo-rat’s capital city, I’m-a-Bad. Seven million people gave me a standing ovation at Motorola stadium. Incredible!
Me: Sir, it’s not difficult to gather a crowd in India.
POTUS: I know a lot of people live in India. But it’s fantastic that all of them came out to show their respect to me. All credit to the chee-wala who became Prime Minister, a great man, a true friend of mine.
Me: How do you know he is a true friend of yours?
POTUS: He built a wall, didn’t he? Anyone who builds me a wall is a true friend of mine.
Me: Mr. President, you love deals. What happened to the trade deal you were supposed to sign with your true friend during this trip?
POTUS: India has the highest tariffs in the world. You have tremendous tariffs on Harley Davidson, a fantastic bike that doesn’t deserve any tariffs. You know, every Indian should be able to own a Harley Davidson. They’d love it. I would love to see thousands of Harley Davidsons on Indian roads. India has a lot of people. More than a billion, I’m told. Imagine all of them on Harleys. That would be incredible India.
Me: Shri POTUS-ji, some U.S. organisations have raised concerns about the CAA and how it will affect religious freedom in India. Did you bring it up with our PM?
POTUS: I assure you, Mr. Modi wants the people of India to have religious freedom. India’s future is bright under his fantastic leadership, brighter than even China’s. I spoke to Xi the other day, and he told me he’s having a tough time with the coronavirus. America is doing a great job on the coronavirus. We have a lock-down in place, and I am sure the Russians are supporting Bernie.
But let me tell you this: Europe will have to pay more for NATO. They gotta pay. Merkel is a great lady. I don’t like her much but she’s better than Greta Thunberg. But Modi is the best. Swami Viveka-Moon-Moon-Sen would be proud of him.
Me: Mr. President, one question is uppermost in the mind of every Indian journalist. In fact, this is the only question that any Indian journalist would like to ask you, no matter how many times it’s been asked before, and how many times you’ve given the same non-answer. Please tell us, what are you going to do to stop Pakistan from sponsoring cross-border terrorism against India?
POTUS: I have great relations with Mr. Khan, the President of Pakistan. He is a fantastic guy. I spoke to Mr. Khan. He has promised me he is as serious about ending terrorism as Mr. Modi is about ensuring religious freedom in India. I am telling you, they are both great guys. Both good friends of mine. I am not saying I want to mediate. But I am there, you know, because I’m incredible that way. I am always available for incredible leaders.
courtesy- The Hindu