This past weekend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump addressed a crowd of 50,000 Indian-Americans in Texas. Sadanand Dhume and Tanvi Madan join Milan to break down the event dubbed “Howdy, Modi.”
On this week’s podcast, Milan sits down with Grand Tamasha regulars Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute and Wall Street Journal and Tanvi Madan of the Brookings Institution to round up the latest news on Indian politics and policy.
The two begin by dissecting the massive, 50,000 person “Howdy, Modi” rally held over the weekend at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. They discuss the optics, the significance, Trump’s role, and the key takeaways from Modi’s address. Later on the podcast, the three talk about the ongoing lockdown in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the BJP’s endgame in the contested state. Milan, Sadanand, and Tanvi conclude with an assessment of the Indian government’s measures to shore up the flagging Indian economy.
Intro: 00:00 "Unabashed" "The most unpredictable" "becomes a headline." "The most volatile" "outrageous behavior." “Unsubstantiated narratives" "A battle of personalities."
Milan Vaishnav: 00:12 Welcome to Grand Tamasha. I'm your host Milan Vaishnav, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. On Sunday night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump addressed a crowd of 50,000 Indian-Americans at NRG stadium in Houston, Texas. The event dubbed howdy Modi was billed as the largest address by a foreign leader whose name is not the Pope on American soil. It had music, it had dancing, it had speeches by a variety of elected American politicians, not least, the president of the United States. And it was capped off by a 50 minute address by Modi to a largely adoring crowd. To discuss this and much more on this week's podcast, I'm joined by podcast regulars Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute and the Wall Street Journal, and Tanvi Madan of the Brookings Institution. Friends. Welcome back to the show.
Sadanand Dhume: 00:54 Good to be back.
Tanvi Madan: 00:55 Howdy, Milan.
Milan Vaishnav: 00:55 Saying Howdy Modi really fast like 10 times is hard.
Tanvi Madan: 01:00 Yeah, but you're a Texan. You should. You should have that kind of pat down.
Milan Vaishnav: 01:05 So later in the show we're going to discuss the situation and Kashmir and the Modi government's response to a flagging Indian economy but we have to start with the discussion of Howy Modi. Uh Tanvi, Let me start with you on the optics. So what to your mind is the sort of broader significance of this historic rally that took place in Houston over the weekend? You know, critics on the one hand say it was a publicity stunt, supporters say it's a historic inflection point. How would you characterize it?
Tanvi Madan: 01:31 I mean, I'm a bit old fashioned in the sense that I like to look at patterns and moments are really important. And I think this was a, an important moment. It was a historic moment and I think I said on Twitter and I, I will say that again, it was it will go down in the annals of U.S.-India relations as a historic moment. Now, is it in inflection point? I think we'll only be able to tell that kind of a few months from now. And perhaps even kind of a week from now. I think in fact, what's ongoing or about to happen as we record this, the meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi, that could be an inflection point depending on the results that come out of it. The upcoming quadrilateral foreign ministers meeting could be an inflection point. But I think nonetheless, this was significant and it was significant,ufor a couple of different reasons.
Tanvi Madan: 02:24 I think, I mean for one, I think yes, it was, as people have pointed out, a recognition of the Indian American community and that term is rather loosely used. I mean, obviously there were Indian Americans, you know, bring cardholders, but also non-resident Indians who were Indian citizens. Regardless. It was a recognition of the community. It was, you know, for, for Prime Minister Modi, including to his audience back home, you know, the pulling power. And I think specially with kind of, you know, the economic news coming out of India has been kind of, the mood's been gloomy. So I can imagine him to come out and kind of pull this off, not just with, kind of 50 odd thousand people though Trump set 59,000 yesterday. But also to have the president of the United States, whatever you think of the man himself, but you have the president of the United States and members of Congress there would have been kind of a, a good sign.
Tanvi Madan: 03:17 I think the second thing where it's significant is, you know, people have said, Oh, you know, this is the, this shows that Indian American community is ready, let's be clear. This is because people think of India as important/useful. And I think that's a reminder, and should be a reminder, that that is what people need to focus on. That the strategic and economic reasons for the relationship need to be nurtured, need to be kept in mind. And not just, I mean, yes, the community is very important. Yes. You know, people pay lip service to values and it is also important, but those underlying factors are really important and have to be nurtured.
Milan Vaishnav: 03:55 So, Sadanand, you know, up until about two weeks ago, this was a Modi event. And I want to ask you about the last minute decision of the U.S. President to attend this rally, supposedly at the invitation of the Indian side. What was in it for the president and what do you think he got out of it?
Sadanand Dhume: 04:10 Well, it was still very much a Modi event you know, it just, despite the fact that you had Trump over there also doing the his starter and it's not clear to me how much he got out of it. Right. I mean, there's the most sort of, you know, obvious view, which is not, not very flattering to the president, which is that, look, he saw this, the idea of a stadium filled with 50,000 people was just impossible to resist.
Milan Vaishnav: 04:36 Just like, Ooh, me, me too!
Sadanand Dhume: 04:38 Exactly. So that's, that's, but you know, beyond that I guess maybe a few things,
Sadanand Dhume: 04:42 I mean, the first is that he really bristles at the idea that, you know, his critics call him a racist. And I think it sort of certainly helps him point out that maybe that's not the case, cause there he is in a, in a, in a stadium filled with 50,000 brown people cheering. It helps him make the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, which I think often is not made in sort of the broader Trumpian movement quite, quite as accurately. But here he can actually sort of credibly make made the argument that, look, I'm not against all immigrants. I'm okay. I'm fine with immigrants like you. It's just another kind of immigrant that are not. So whether you want to buy it or not as a different issue. But it did make him a, allow him to make that distinction. And then the third, which I think is sort of perhaps the least important, but it has been given some press, is the idea that, you know, Texas may be, you know, moving from being a red state to becoming more purple. And, I mean, Milan, you know much more about this than I do and that possibly the Indian American community in Texas would potentially swing voters who, and, and, and Trump wants to keep an eye on them. And that's certainly a possibility, but I would put that it's kind of low down.
Milan Vaishnav: 05:55 I want to ask you both about the prime minister's remarks. You know, he covered a lot of ground in his speech from kind of the commitment to diversity at home to a justification of the aggregation of Article 370 and Jammu & Kashmir to Pakistan immigration. Tanvi, let me ask you first, what were your biggest takeaways on the prime minister's address?
Tanvi Madan: 06:15 I mean, I know what President Trump's big takeaway was to quote him, the very aggressive statement that prime minister Modi made on kinda Kashmir. I think, you know, I don't know if I think it was definitely assertive and one of the things was his, the way he made the case. And he, he took it head on and I suspect partly he took it head on because that was a crowd which expected to hear about it. But also he probably my sens is, I don't think he'd want to go. He's gonna want to bring it up at the UN, just his UN General Assembly speech. But I think it was kind of in some ways bringing it up, knowing that the president, I think he would brought up anyway, but with the president there, and perhaps we'll talk about this later, kind of sending a signal. And the message, you know, kind of getting as the seeking from the crowd, a standing ovation from a for kind of Indian MPs.
Tanvi Madan: 07:14 And I think this was a way of saying, look, this went through parliamentary. This was not just a done by diktat. Now you can argue about that. But regardless, the point that he was trying to make that look, this was, this went through a democratic process. I think the second kind of take away from, for me from, from the, not necessarily, I think from his remarks, but the whole event in some ways is that, you know, the, the fact we've talked about, you know, the last two decades you've seen evolution and, and mostly forward movement in U.S. In your relations. But Modi, since he's come to office, we saw a little bit of a dip in this, but it's gone back to it, which is fully embracing the U.S. Relationship. Now, one can point out that he was fully embracing Putin a couple a few weeks ago at the Eastern Economic Forum.
Tanvi Madan: 08:04 And I don't know that he'll embrace Xi, but reportedly he will at least host him in India. So I think, you know, that aspect of the U.S.-India relationship - So for me the two big takeaways was yes, this kind of bringing up Kashmir taking it on, head on as an issue. And then second kind of this, this other aspect. The other thing that strikes me is things that were not mentioned as much, which is you've seen a shift from his speeches in 2014 to his subsequent speeches in 2017 in this one 2014 he was saying, dear Indian diaspora, this is the thing, five things you need to do for India. Now he makes the point that their biggest contribution to U.S.-India relations in India can be by being good Americans or kind of Indian residents in America.
Milan Vaishnav: 08:52 Sadanand, what jumped out to you from the speech?
Sadanand Dhume: 08:55 Oh it would most definitely be Kashmir because you had the prime minister not only not just not ignoring it, but instead of playing defense, deciding to play offense on this. And it seems to me that the strategy is to basically impress in this very kind of basic primal way the fact that his action is extremely popular in India. And you can see that demonstrated in the popularity it enjoyed in that stadium. And so that, you know, at a time when the vast majority of media coverage in the West has been extremely negative and sort of question the Indian move to just sort of let the president and let the members of Congress over there know that look, there is another narrative out there too and this is an extremely popular move. So I think that was, you know, clearly the biggest takeaway. And the second thing, which I thought he did quite cleverly was, you know, he spoke twice but the first time when he spoke in English and he really like laid it on thick. I mean flattery central and you know, you could make fun of that. But I think that in some ways it -
Tanvi Madan: 10:03 Section sponsored by Ammu butter -
Sadanand Dhume: 10:03 Showed exactly. It, it, in a way, I thought that was kind of, you know, from the point of view of Indian diplomacy that was refreshing because it showed you know, a practicality that you kind of know who your target audience is and you'd do what needs to be done as opposed to the old traditional starchy Indian here are five reasons why I love strategic autonomy.
Milan Vaishnav: 10:28 Laughs. Thank God we didn't get that speech.
Tanvi Madan: 10:32 I will say the, I mean there's, there is one thing that he said in those remarks and I think he's followed the playbook that Abe has Macron has, et cetera, which is lay it on thick, right. And it's paid dividends in some ways. But I think the, the, the thing that there's a question about is whether now he, he was talking about "Ab ki baar Trump sarkar" came from the previous election, but the fact that he used campaign slogans, "Make America Great Again," et cetera. He's used versions of that. But given that we're about to head in an election year here I think, you know, my, my, I wish that they had left that out of, I understood why he did it. And you know, he stopped short of an endorsement while saying enough for Trump to believe that he endorsed him. But I do think there's a reason India has tended to be very careful about walking that line. Now. In one way you could say what, Sadanand did, that this is the new India they're going to say and they figure that, look, the Democrats still have strategic and economic values reasons that -
Sadanand Dhume: 11:36 Well I actually agree with you cause I think that he what he was trying to draw - walk a very fine line and I don't think you can walk that line that finally. And once you introduce the slogan right "ab ki baar, Trump sarkar" even though he did it looking backwards, which literally translates as "this time a Trump government." It's a little bit too cute to suggest that, "Well I was just talking about something he said four years ago."
Tanvi Madan: 11:59 And I think this is somewhere, you know India often and particularly people on the right, we'll often in India will look to Israel as an example and I think this is something they can learn from the Israel example or the BB example in the U.S. Which is he is somehow managed in the last few years, by being fairly partisan, to make Israel for, for after a long time a kind of a partisan relationship here. It's still, I mean, it's still a healthy relationship in many ways, but still, I mean, India would do well to kind of stay away from that.
Milan Vaishnav: 12:33 So I want to turn to our second topic now because it's something both of you touched on, which is Jammu & Kashmir. It's been more than 50 days since the abrogation or the scrapping of Article 370. The information blackout has been partially, though not fully lifted. The political opposition still remains under house arrest. You know, this past week, a member of the Modi cabinet said, you know, those under house arrest should not be complaining because they are residing in quote unquote five-star guesthouses and have an access to luxury items apparently like Brown bread and Bollywood films. Sadanand, should we be concerned that, you know, a month and a half after August 5th,uthe political opposition is still under lock and key?
Sadanand Dhume: 13:10 Yeah. And first of all, you know, the idea that there are predominantly under house arrest is simply not accurate. There are a few high profile leaders such as Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah who are being plied with the world's greatest luxuries , meaning namely brown bread and, and old cassettes of, of Hollywood movies -
Milan Vaishnav: 13:31 And access to gym equipment as well -
Sadanand Dhume: 13:33 And access to gym equipment. Can you imagine? Right? The lap of luxury. Um but let's face it, there are many, many more people who are being held in jails. They have been flown to other parts of India. There are credible reports that suggest that this includes children. Many of the people being held are people are members of civil society, businessmen, people who have nothing to do with politics. And ironically, many of them are people who have literally put their lives on the line for many years by batting for India. So the sort of comments that you're, that you are mentioning about how this is also gentle and no one should be complaining are just, you know, frankly ludicrous. As for the communications lockdown, it, you know, the most important parts have not been lifted. What we're talking about is the Valley and people in the Valley do not have access to mobile phones and they do not have access to the internet. So sure that other parts of the state people do where, where the, where, where this move was less unpopular, they do have, you know, they have had their mobile phones restored and so on. But the situation in the Valley, which is really the heart of the dispute is is by all accounts still quite dire.
Milan Vaishnav: 14:47 Let me push you a little bit on this because you know, we've all met a number of Government of India officials and have seen their speeches and their statements and read their op-eds. In fact, the foreign minister has a piece in today's Financial Times. I should say, that we are recording on, on Tuesday morning, September 24th. And the point there is that, you know, a lot of the foreign media attention is on the Valley, but the Valley is a very small component of the overall state and, right. And, and, and, and, and it's, it's, it's one where they're worried about violence, where they're worried about unrest they're worried about separatism. And so it may take longer for the government justifiably to unwind this lockout.
Sadanand Dhume: 15:27 But, Milan, it's not a small part of the state. It's only a small part of the state. If you completely ignore the people, it's the most populous part of the state. You don't, you don't, you don't measure what is large and what is small by area, right. You measure it by human beings. And I think that's really been the principal weakness in these arguments put forward, including the argument put forward by Foreign Minister Jaishankar in the FT is that to buy it you just have to basically ignore the fact that there are 8 million Kashmiri Muslims in the Valley who are unhappy and who are being sort of essentially have been robbed off what in 2019 are pretty basic rights. Like the ability to get onto the internet and be able to use a cell phone.
Milan Vaishnav: 16:13 So I want to come to you, Tanvi, on the international response because in my view, the criticism from abroad has been fairly muted. You know, now that Trump and Modi have shared a stage together as you mentioned. Do you think India's stand on J&K has essentially been given the kind of good housekeeping seal of approval as far as the U.S. Government is concerned?
Tanvi Madan: 16:31 Yeah, I think the Indian government will see it that way and they wouldn't be wrong to necessarily. I mean, you've, you've had an unprecedented moment in U.S.-India relations and so they will, they will see it that way. Having said that, you do see a, and listen, I'm a cynic about these things. I am not surprised that the global reaction has been, as you said, you know, has not been critical. At least, I mean, global governments' reaction because they will judge. I mean they, they, they will see a, is this country strategically or economically useful to them? And that's what they will judge it on. We can talk about values all we want, but let's be clear that that's what countries judge. Even the Europeans have been muted, relatively muted. Having said that, the fact that you have seen the Indian ambassador, right?
Tanvi Madan: 17:23 And response I don't think it was an op-ed, I think it was an op-ed/response to the kind of Imran Khan op-ed in an American newspaper. And you've seen the foreign minister write a piece in the FT the week of UNGA tells you that they are hearing privately from a number of these governments that this is something that they find to quote a a word. We often hear Republicans in this country is troubling. And I think there is a recognition to some extent also that listen, what are the strengths India has is that it's not China. It's not China in that's a democracy that follows the rule of law, has respect for going to people's wishes, et cetera. And I think they, whether or not that will be publicly admitted, there's probably recognition.
Tanvi Madan: 18:10 I think there's a third thing that does matter, which is that India's having to call in a bunch of chips from these countries. And that means that these are chips that cannot, you could say fine Indians. We'll say as Sadanand said, many Indians, this is a very popular move. They, it's worth it if we can cash in those chips we've earned over time. The question is what happens when you need those when you need those chips down the line for something else? And so when you're calling in those favors to say, I need your backing on this, you're not, you might not have as much backing or you have to put something else on the table down the line to kind of make sure that you are keeping your favor box full
Tanvi Madan: 18:54 So to speak,
Milan Vaishnav: 18:55 I mean, Sadanand, you speak with a lot of people in the BJP and I'm wondering what you think their end game is here. I mean, how do they expect to translate the current turmoil or clampdown or whatever you want to call it, into the political and developmental success that it says the state will be over time?
Sadanand Dhume: 19:12 I don't think that's the goal at all. I think that what they've done over the last five years is leverage Kashmir and leverage troubles in Kashmir to benefit in the rest of the country. So this is really not about, in my estimation and has not been about what happens with the Kashmiris. But if we're sort of, you know, blunt about it, this is about winning elections in the rest of the country. There's also an ideological element as you know, the BJP going back to the 1950s in its previous incarnation as the Bharatiya Jan Sangh has long sort of viewed this as, you know, and to their credit, they've been forthright about this.
Sadanand Dhume: 19:49 They've long viewed this as a sort of example of kind of special rights being given to Muslims and how they're being pampered. And then, so they have a, you know, they have a point of view. They've never been a apologetic about it. And I think this sort of talk about, Oh well we know this is really because we love LGBT rights so much and you know, we can't wait to turn the Kashmiri economy into Singapore. This is for external consumption. Let's be honest.
Milan Vaishnav: 20:15 Or reservations for that matter.
Sadanand Dhume: 20:16 Right? These are a bunch of post facto lawyerly justifications. That is not what animates the people who are, that does not animate the party and it certainly doesn't animate the average person on the street who is for this.
Milan Vaishnav: 20:30 So then it's a question of how do you get the J&K economy started? There's a question of how you get the Indian economy started. The government now through a series of basically weekly press conferences by the finance minister has unveiled a number of measures to try to counteract the current slowdown, which I think they have acknowledged as
Milan Vaishnav: 20:48 Both cyclical and has a structural component. Most recent move was the finance minister's announcement of a slashing of the corporate tax rate. Sadanand, you have been a votary of this move for many years now. Four or five weeks ago when we were all together. At this table, you talked about this, does the government deserve credit for bringing corporate tax rates in line with that and some of its international competitors?
Sadanand Dhume: 21:09 Well, I can only assume that Nirmala Sitharaman was listening to your part.
Milan Vaishnav: 21:12 Laughs/ That's right.
Sadanand Dhume: 21:13 Uh and, and, and, and that's why she did it.
Milan Vaishnav: 21:16 This is think tank impact, folks.
Sadanand Dhume: 21:17 Right.
Sadanand Dhume: 21:19 But look, this is something that they had promised in 2015 and Jaitley had promised it in, in, in, in a budget. Indians, corporate tax rates are much higher than most of its competitors in East Asia. So I think this is a good move. It remains to be seen, you know, if you're an optimist then you can see this as some kind of turning point where finally the government acknowledges that the way they've been approaching the economy has been wrong. They've been too statist, they've been to mistrustful of business. They have been too heavy handed in getting tax authorities to kind of go after both businesses and individuals. My own views of the jury's still out because it seems to me that over the last few weeks, the finance minister has essentially been acting in panic cause she delivered a budget that was extremely poorly received.
Sadanand Dhume: 22:12 Sort of people have called it either the worst or the second worst budget since since the reforms in 1991. And she realizes that many foreign investors have been heading for the exit. And also that things that reached a point where even BJP supporters who can very often be counted on to cheer the most absurd things, I'm not gonna use my favorite example over here, well I had actually were, were, were quite upset by her so-called super rich tax and so on. So there's been a sort of a realization just how much if a course correction this is, it's too early to say they're just doing cap tax tax cuts and then are they leaving it at that? Then I don't think they're going to get very far. But if the tax cuts are the first move and they're going to do a lot of other reforms, land, labor, privatization, and so on things that we've been talking about for many years, then I think this is something worth welcoming,
Milan Vaishnav: 23:07 Let me just stay with you on this because in your last Wall Street Journal column, you write that, you know, Modi has held four U.S. Rallies in five years, but he still doesn't seem to grasp how freedom feeds prosperity. In the United States. By extension of your argument, the prime minister himself is perhaps not convinced of the need to do some of these things that you just rattled off.
Sadanand Dhume: 23:31 Yeah, I mean, this is something I've written about before, too. It drives me nuts. I mean, basically you have all, you know, Modi showing up in the U.S. And looking at this prosperous community and there's a tendency both in political circles and in the media to sort of view this simply as, you know, the, the, the greatness of Indians look at these, these people and they're just, they have this, there's, they're so magically talented and so wonderful. Look at how many doctors and look at, look at the per capita income and so on and not taking anything away from the Indian American community. I think that it's sort of, you know, it's, it's absurd to, to ignore the fact that many people are in fact economic refugees. And the reason why people have moved in large numbers to this country was that India frankly made a hash of things. And if that was more acknowledged then I think that what Modi would be trying to do, would be trying to, to the degree possible recreate the economic conditions. Obviously you can't make it exactly the same, but move in a direction towards economic freedom so people can achieve their full, achieve their potential. And we have seen virtually no signs of that over the past five years.
Milan Vaishnav: 24:48 So, Tanvi, I want to ask you about sentiment. You know, we've seen thus far we're, we're not all the way through, but a positive trip to the United States for Modi rumors swirling about an impending bilateral trade deal. And the tax cut announcement of course. Do you think, taken together these have the potential, at least as far as foreign investors, multinationals, U.S. Companies are concerned to give them a new found kind of jolt of confidence in the economy?
Tanvi Madan: 25:15 I think it comes down to something Sadanand said, but also I think Sanjay Baru had a good a article about this, which it depends on, there's a bit of announcement fatigue amongst a number of people we talk to here or in New York or California. And the idea, and I've heard it in Europe as well recently and in places like Japan as well. Which is, you know, we've heard a lot of announcements and there's the implementation bit and the follow through bit. Is this a pattern or is it a moment? And I think the question, and I think Sanjay Baru pointed this out is, is this just a moment or one time thing or is this a realization as there was in kind of previous significant moments that the government understands this conscious be a onetime thing, a quick fix, or a few quick fixes that it says something about them?
Tanvi Madan: 26:15 I think they have acknowledged that there is a problem no matter what is said publicly, but also that acknowledging that the fixes that are required would require a whole different way of thinking than we have seen in the past few years. And not just the things that Sadanand mentioned, but also the issue of India's approach, economic approach to the world, which means trade and investment. Now, you know, as you said, we're hearing rumors by the time I suspect this goes, gets uploaded, we will know whether the U.S. And India have actually got to a trade deal or an agreement to an agreement or you know, but if you hear an announcement that, look, they're starting talks at the FTA, you'll have some that say this is a good move. There'll be others who say, well, India has been negotiating in FTA with the EU for kind of years and it's gotten away. So I think if people see that this is a serious effort and a change in thinking and understanding that of what's required, then yes, you will see. I think there'll be a bump. I mean, we saw this in the Indian stock market. And I think if there's kind of some understanding between Trump and Modi, you will see a little bit more. But I think for it to be sustained, people will have to be, see kind of a more consistent, sustained change.
Sadanand Dhume: 27:32 Let me go out on a limb and make a quick prediction here. I think what we're going to see on the trade side is actually quite similar to what you've seen in the last few weeks in terms of of economic announcements, which was essentially damage control. Now, the two countries have allowed the trade relationship to deteriorate quite dramatically. In May, the U.S. ended India's GSP preferences, which is a program that allowed many Indian labor-intensive manufacturers to export to the U.S. Without any tariffs. Now I think what's going, and then India had raised tariffs on on many U.S. Products, including almonds and walnuts. And I think what you're going to see essentially is that some of that is going to be rolled back. You may see a few other things here and there, like India may, you know, you know, reduce it's tariffs on Harley Davidsons. There are hardly any Harley Davidson sold in India, so it doesn't really matter, but it gives the president something to boast about.
Milan Vaishnav: 28:28 People have talked about price caps on medical devices,
Sadanand Dhume: 28:31 Right and they might come up with a few. So these are kind of minor things, right? I do not think that I mean for larger reasons, right? I think as the whole world is going through this moment where we are rethinking the approach trade, including Trump, right? His speech today at, at the, at, at the UN, he is clearly not a globalist. He has very sort of definitive views about trade. So I don't think you're going to get something dramatic. What you're gonna get is the equivalent of them slaying a lizard and calling it a dragon.
Tanvi Madan: 29:03 Well, I think, you know, I think fundamentally the two countries, and I think we're in this particular moment where kind of economic philosophies potentially clash. Where you heard this kind of contradiction in the speeches that President Trump gave in Houston and Prime Minister Modi gave on Independence Day where you had President Trump saying in a speech that was otherwise kind of fairly positive highlighting achievements. I want you to buy more American products and services. You India and Prime Minister Modi speech on August 15, said, look, Indians, I want you to buy more Indian products. And so this thing and, and these days, that's what everybody seems to be saying, which is, or a number of countries seem to be saying, which is I want to export more and import less. And I think that contradiction has to be sorted out. Until they don't, that is going to be a problem. Having said that, I think they, all people on both sides now, whether they're leadership listens to them or not, is another matter who understand that you can actually find compromises in a way that actually would be harder in the U.S.-China context. But it means give on both sides whether or not that give is gonna be given, we'll find out.
Milan Vaishnav: 30:21 So like we do every week have to end the show by asking each of you to tell our listeners about a story coming out of India that they should be paying attention to but perhaps have not been who wants to go first?
Sadanand Dhume: 30:33 I'll go first. I think the most fascinating story out there is this whole language issue where Amit Shah gave a speech where he talked about how it's, you know, it's time Hindi became the national language. He immediately faced extreme blow back and then he had to kind of come back and revise his comments and sort of point out that they didn't really have a problem with any of many, many regional languages. And then we saw in Texas during Howdy Modi, Modi making it a point to speak various regional languages to, to emphasize the fact that India sees its various languages as a source of strength. And it kind of, and that kind of pluralism to be proud of. I think this is an issue that is interesting because it's not going to go away. Even though the government may have retreated because, you know, at its core you have the fact that Hindu nationalism as a movement has long been linked with Hindi nationalism, which we look at a lot less. I think this is something to just, I'm not saying that they're going to do anything drastic, but I just think that this is something worth keeping an eye on.
Milan Vaishnav: 31:37 Tanvi?
Tanvi Madan: 31:38 So mine is a little bit more technocratic, which is, there was a report in the Indian Express, I think it was last week. I've lost track of time a little bit, but yes, it was last week about the government potentially allow, you know, adjusting the higher education bill to allow foreign universities entry into India. Now this has been, I mean, this was first proposed during the UPA. It's come back up. And it's related to, I mean this has implications for the Indian economy for potentially scaling, but also for kind of a U.S.-India relations. And so it'll be interesting to see if this goes anywhere. And frankly what they do with higher education in general there is still the, the question of if you're going to kind of, you have to make sure once you've skilled in educated people that there are jobs out there.
Tanvi Madan: 32:28 But, but these days -
Sadanand Dhume: 32:29 The jobs are in Texas,
Tanvi Madan: 32:30 Laughs. The jobs are in Texas. But I think, you know, I mean the people have pointed out, look, there are actually jobs American companies for example, have pointed out they can create jobs in India. Don't tell Trump. But you know, the skilling has been an issue. But regardless that this potentially could actually open up a whole new area of opportunity, it's a controversial bill. You know, the downsides, it's a draft. It's in, I think there are certain draft provisions, so we'll see where that goes. But I think that could be an interesting thing to watch.
Milan Vaishnav: 32:58 So my nomination would be there are elections coming up, guys, aren't we excited? We've just, you know finished 2019 and now we have state elections coming up in Maharashtra and Haryana the dates had been announced. The polling is going to take place on October 21st. Ostensibly these are two states where the Congress could have a shot. I don't think they will win, but there are places where they have traditionally had an organization. There are many domestic governance issues at play in both places, whether it's farmer anger or law and order or safety that if they had their act together could mobilize on. We're not seeing a ton of energy and excitement on the opposition side, although, you know, as we've seen a lot can happen through the course of a two or three week campaign. But we'll be back hopefully at the end of October to talk about what happened in those elections. Best week, worst week. Do we have responses other than Rahul Gandhi for worst week and Narendra Modi for best week?
Sadanand Dhume: 34:02 Well, I would say that the, I mean the best week was probably the overseas friends of the BJP and the whole kind of network of organizations, right? Because the amount of effort that would have gone into pulling off this event in Texas at a time where, you know, it's a fraught time. The Kashmir event, the Kashmir decision was just about a little bit about six weeks ago. I think it shows a capacity for organization. So I'd say that the, the, the, they definitely had the best week. Now I had come up with a worst week thing, but I'm sort of I'm, I'm sort of it's slipped my mind. So why don't we let Tanvi go and I'll come back to my worst week.
Tanvi Madan: 34:49 So my best and worst week I kind of related, which was I think the best week our worlds for folks who love hyphenation, India, Pakistan, hyphenation, and the worst week is those who very much supported de-hyphenation. And I think, you know, we have seen whatever people say. The fact I think that since the beginning of the year, you've seen kind of a linking of India, Pakistan, at least in the minds of policymakers. Now what is it having kind of the old fashioned thing where every thing that's done with India is measured against over Pakistan, be upset about it? Not, I don't think we're there yet. I think there's still that idea of if we're doing this with Pakistan, how will India think about this? But you know, the fact that even in the public imagination of the years when India being hyphenated with China we're seeing, you know, kind of going back to we haven't seen this in a more than a decade, but we're seeing it kind of go back. And whether you are, you, you know, all of you would have got kind of event speaking invites or kind of calls from local radio stations around the country. India, Pakistan in their mind is back.
Sadanand Dhume: 36:01 I'd say my worst week is the, well, not just the week, but work was six weeks or worst two months is the Indian Supreme court. The fact that they have not been able to even hold hearings on something as fundamental as the abrogation of Article 370, which has been around for for seventeen years. The fact that they have not been able to even sort of talk about this is really, you know, it's speaks extremely poorly for the strength of the institution and its priorities.
Milan Vaishnav: 36:35 Well, this is also a week in which we saw the wife of the election commissioner, Ashok Lavasa, get served an income tax notice, which is interesting because, of the three election commissioners, he was the only one allegedly to have dissented from the ECs decision not to censure top BJP leaders who's.
New Speaker: 36:56 Isn't it amazing, how only these corrupt - only people who are corrupt are the people who seem to sort of oppose the government system? Just a striking coincidence!
Milan Vaishnav: 37:04 Uand so the plot thickens, I'm sure we'll hear a lot more about that story. Tanvi, Sadanand, great to have you back on the show. Hope to see you here again in about a month.
Tanvi Madan: 37:14 Adios, Milan.
Speaker 5: 37:15 The Grand Tamasha is a co-production of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Hindustan Times. You can find us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Don't forget to rate and review. It helps others find the show more easily. For more information about the show and to find the writing we referenced on this week's episode, visit our website GrandTamasha.com. Production assistance comes from Megan Maxwell and Rachel Osnos. Tim Martin is our audio engineer and Lauren Dueck is our executive producer. Thanks for listening and see you next week.