Behind the POTUS visit

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The upcoming visit of US President Donald Trump conjured up decade-old memories when President Barack Obama and the then first lady Michelle Obama had visited India in 2010. The dynamics of a President visit are so complicated and those in charge of the visit have to literally manufacture a sonorous tune out of the bureaucratic cacophony that one has to wade through. Typically the preparations for the visit begin around a month and a half before any POTUS visit (President of the United States) visit. Semantic expectations aside there were expectations skirmishes about security issues as well. However, this is something that the POTUS advance team face everywhere they go in the world. The team expected to be in complete charge of their President’s security where in certain locations the Mumbai police stuck to their guns and refused to cede control. However, during that time the US foreign policy was big on soft power and hence many people looked to forward to positive outcomes from the visit. The Mumbai visit included a visit to Mani Bhavan- the residence of the Mahatma, a Koli Dance at a Mumbai school, and paying obeisance to the terror victims at the Taj Palace Hotel. President Obama and Michelle Obama’s natural interaction with the local population as well as representatives at each pit stop ensured that none of the backroom differences came to the fore on the D- day itself.

A certain person called me from interior Maharashtra and told me that they had established a ‘Barack Obama Mitra Mandal (friend circle) and he wanted an interaction with the President. A request from an unknown Urdu magazine also followed with the owner requesting a photo op with Sadr-e- Amrica. The hype around them often leads people to believe that there will be dramatic outcomes. However, either countries strayed from doing anything of that sort. So often these visits are high on optics as compared to the outcomes achieved. They only chart a course of the shape that the relationship will take in the coming days. Sometimes the outcomes are just related to the intended perception outcomes that the state head desires from the visit. However, even in terms of optics President Obama was way more natural than President Trump. Trump is coming with a lot of negative baggage.

The killing of Suleimani and the recent impeachment which he managed to scrape through projects him as a way more divisive figure than Obama. Furthermore, as a first hand observer I can vouch for the fact that the Obama couple could strike a direct chord with the common audiences which I doubt how much a megalomaniac like Trump will be able to achieve. These visits often leave with a lot of bruised and hurt egos at the administrative level. However, it is the chord with the common people is what people remember. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have an historic edge over Trump in this.

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