It is a terrible habit we have of finding slight where no slight might exists. There is almost a devilish delight in moaning about US president Donald Trump not accepting the invitation to be the chief guest at the Republic Day function. The media has gone into negative nomenclature. He turned it down. He spurned us. Egg on the face. What a snub. Is our face red? Injured our national pride. How could he do that? Why couldn’t the Government of India have got a confirmation first off the record and then sent the invitation, now we look stupid by this deliberate insult? It is all connected to the Rafale deal with France and the 2+2 dialogue (meet with the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries) and now see, he has thumbed his nose at us. We will make that link, too. Woe is us.
No, he hasn’t done any of this. It is not a big deal. Ever since his name was the first choice in April to be the chief guest there has never been a yes from Washington and it seems a very superfluous and kneejerk response to say oh, we never really invited him so he cannot disinvite himself because the odds are we did send out feelers. Going with that as a defence is absurd. In the great cosmic sense who cares.
It is not even important. We do not need a chief guest at the parade. It will march past with sufficient grandeur pomp and with the president doing the honours. We do not approbation or approval.
Where we will go wrong now and give this unimportant impasse more importance is by building it into an issue and then trying to charm some other head of state into standing in. To me, that would be more insulting to the invitee and we should not go that route.
Then we will have our political worthies tying themselves up in knots showing needless embarrassment. The Opposition will screech with glee and call for amends to this gross slur on the Indian nation. Really, get a life, it is just Donald Trump.
Trump has a pretty good reason not to come. In the same time frame (if he had agreed to fly over) he will be addressing both Houses in his State of the Union Speech. This is critical. Over 50 million people tune in and in 2018 his theme was “we will rebuild infrastructure with American heart, American hands and American grit.” Off you go, immigrants.
Last year it was given on 30 January but as of now, the date is not confirmed though it is traditionally in the first month of the year and 22 January is being predicted as the date though it could be any time in that week. If it is 23 or 24 January it becomes very difficult to leave when your speech is either anticipated and you are fine tuning it or waiting to assess the fallout and blowback and going into damage containment for what you spoke. Also, with half the nation watching and analysing your words it would be unedifying to be seen 8,000 klicks away watching a parade. Bad optics.
But more to the point why are we so incensed. He is not the most personable chief guest and at a time when India is in the throes of #MeToo movement, even his social etiquette and grace do not make him the ideal icon to be sitting up front and centre.
We must get over this habit of self-flagellation, especially where the western world is concerned. He has not declined, rejected or dismissed the invitation. He is just not coming and the skies are not falling.
Have you never said no to an invitation?