US Presidential Debate 2020: Trump Attacks India; Biden Says "Inshallah"
The first US presidential debate of Elections 2020 on September 29 was a very chaotic affair. It was characterized by constant interruptions by President Donald J. Trump and exchange of unprecedented insults with Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden. Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor and moderator, found it impossible to bring order in spite of his best efforts. It resembled Pakistani Talk Shows with all the yelling, screaming, drama and insults. Trump attacked India twice during the debate. At one point, Biden said "Inshallah".
Trump refused to denounce white supremacists and questioned the integrity of the elections. Trump also attacked Biden’s intelligence at several points during the contentious debate. Biden called Trump a "clown" and told him to "shut up" at one point.
Trump questioned India's coronavirus data while responding to Biden's accusation that his opponent has badly mishandled the pandemic. About 21 minutes into the debate, Trump said: "And, by the way, when you talk about numbers, you don’t know how many people died in China. You don’t know how many people died in Russia. You don’t know how many people died in India. They don’t exactly give you a straight count, just so you understand".
Officially, North America (particularly US & Mexico) has suffered 303,600 coronavirus deaths, the highest COVID19 death toll in the world . It’s followed by SouthAmerica (248,700), Europe (220,600), Asia (189,900), Africa (35,200) as of Sept 28,2020, according to Axios. US, with 200,000 deaths, accounts for two-thirds of all deaths in North America. Asia accounts for about 60% of the global population. India, with a death toll near 100,000, accounts for over half of all deaths in Asia.
|Global Coronavirus Deaths By Continents. Source: Axios|
Talking about climate change, Trump accused India of being a leading polluter. About an hour into the debate, Trump said: "China sends up real dirt into the air. Russia does. India does. They all do". There are reports suggesting India has surpassed China as the world's top polluter. Images captured by the Dutch space instrument, Tropomi, show high concentrations pollutants like Nitrogen dioxide, Ozone and other pollutants produced by car traffic, industry and power stations in India, according to a Business Insider report.
|India Top Polluter. Source: Business Inside|
About 15 minutes into the debate, Biden used the word "Inshallah" while demanding Trump's tax returns. Pressing Trump on when the American public would get to see his long-anticipated tax returns, Biden questioned: "When? Inshallah?" "Inshallah" is often considered as a non-committal response by some in the Muslim world.
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The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) will give future moderators the option to cut candidates’ microphones following complaints about Tuesday’s initial debate, CBS’s Norah O’Donnell reported Wednesday afternoon.
The report comes hours after the bipartisan body announced it would implement changes to make the remaining debates less chaotic.
“The Commission on Presidential Debates sponsors televised debates for the benefit of the American electorate. Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues. The CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly,” the group said in a statement Wednesday.
The announcement came after lawmakers and media figures expressed frustration and exhaustion with the first debates. President Trump frequently interrupted Democratic nominee Joe Biden and also sparred with moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News after he asked him to allow Biden to answer his questions per the rules.
“Mr. President, I’m the moderator of this debate and I’d like you to let me ask my questions,” Wallace eventually said.
“I guess I’m debating you, not him,” Trump responded. “I’m not surprised.”
The CPD has not yet formally announced what specific steps, if any, it will take to ensure adherence to the rules at further debates. Biden and Trump are set to square off again on Oct. 15 and 22, while Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will have their single debate on Oct. 7.
The Hill has reached out to the CPD for comment.
Mr. Trump has refused for months to wear a mask in public on all but a few occasions and repeatedly questioned their effectiveness while mocking Mr. Biden for wearing one. Trailing in the polls, the president in recent weeks increasingly held crowded campaign events in defiance of public health guidelines and sometimes state and local governments.
“The president and first lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence,” the physician, Sean P. Conley, said in a statement without saying how long that would be. “Rest assured I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments.”
Other aides to the president would not say whether he was experiencing symptoms, but people at the White House noticed that his voice sounded raspy on Thursday, although it was not clear that it was abnormal for him, especially given the number of campaign rallies he has been holding lately.
Mr. Trump received the test result after one of his closest advisers, Hope Hicks, became infected, bringing the virus into his inner circle and underscoring the difficulty of containing it even with the resources of a president. Mr. Trump has for months played down the severity of the virus and told a political dinner just Thursday night that “the end of the pandemic is in sight.”
Mr. Trump’s positive test result could pose immediate difficulties for the future of his campaign against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger, with just 33 days before the election on Nov. 3. Even if Mr. Trump, 74, remains asymptomatic, he will have to withdraw from the campaign trail and stay isolated in the White House for an unknown period of time. If he becomes sick, it could raise questions about whether he should remain on the ballot at all.
Even if he does not become seriously ill, the positive test could prove devastating to his political fortunes given his months of diminishing the seriousness of the pandemic even as the virus was still ravaging the country and killing about 1,000 more Americans every day. He has repeatedly predicted the virus “is going to disappear,” asserted that it was under control and insisted that the country was “rounding the corner” to the end of the crisis. He has scorned scientists, saying they were mistaken on the severity of the situation.
Representing one of these interests is an influx of supporters of Indian nationalist Prime Minister, and friend of President Trump, Narendra Modi, presumably due to Tlaib’s support of human rights in the Kashmir. The region has long been devastated by India’s ongoing military occupation and current lockdown.
Modi’s government is also widely criticized for its attempt to pass racist citizenship laws in the country, a move that has sparked widespread protests. Detroit itself has seen protests against the Indian government’s treatment of Kashmir and its nationalist laws that target minorities.
Earlier in July, the Hamtramck City Council adopted a resolution condemning India’s National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Tlaib has been vocal about the stripping of autonomous rights of the Kashmiri people and has said India’s unacceptable actions in the region strip Kashmiris of “their human dignity, put millions of people in danger and seriously undermine democracy in India and Kashmir.”
Modi’s opponents in India may suddenly gain leverage. #KamalaHarris' heritage is #TamilNadu which remains a bastion of opposition. #Harris has been critical of the Modi's policies in #Indian Occupied #Kashmir https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/11/06/biden-harris-india-modi-election/
Indian Americans love Kamala Harris. The daughter of an Indian biologist who moved to the United States and became one of the country’s most respected cancer researchers, Harris embodies the values of hard work, intellectual accomplishment, and political engagement. As a U.S. senator, she pushed for immigration policies favored by the Indian American community, including a lifting of country caps on H1-B temporary employment visas and the retention of employment rights for spouses of H1-B visa holders. And Indian Americans are understandably proud to see one of their own rising to the top of the U.S. political system.
But good for Indian Americans does not necessarily mean good for the current government of India. On the contrary: The Biden team’s priorities (from what we know so far) are likely to drive a wedge between the United States and continental Asia’s oldest democracy at a time when Washington is looking for new allies in its strategic rivalry with China.
Harris may be a part of that wedge herself. As senator, Harris has been diplomatically circumspect in her few public comments about India’s government but has shown no love for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Last year, she even publicly criticized Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar while he was on an official visit to the United States. Jaishankar had refused to share a platform with U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Indian American sponsor of a House of Representatives resolution calling out the Indian government for its policies in Kashmir.
Harris’s own family connection to India may color her attitude. Her mother hailed from Tamil Nadu in southern India, a state in which Modi’s BJP did not win a single seat in last year’s national parliamentary elections. The BJP is often described as a Hindu nationalist party, but it can also be seen as a regional movement centered on the Hindi heartland of northern India. That regional base has expanded in recent years, but Tamil Nadu—which is almost 90 percent Hindu but not Hindi-speaking—remains a bastion of opposition.
Harris herself has been critical of the Indian government’s policies in Kashmir and strongly suggested (without explicitly saying) that she would put human rights at the center of her approach to India—and the rest of the world. That sounds like political boilerplate until you realize that in India, “human rights” often translates as “anti-BJP.” Unable to beat Modi at the polls, his domestic critics have focused on what they say are policies and incitement directed against minorities, such as India’s 172 million Muslims. With Harris in the West Wing, Modi’s opponents in India may suddenly have much more leverage at their disposal.
In a statement published on June 2020, around 10 months after India revoked Article 370 of the constitution, Biden had asked New Delhi to restore the rights of the Kashmiris.
"In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy," the statement read.
Article 370 had been scrapped on August 5 and the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories -- Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
According to experts have keenly watching Pakistan's foreign policy, think it will be good news for Pakistan if Joe Biden takes oath for office at the White House. Joe Biden can give a new dimension to relations with Pakistan in his foreign policy. In such a situation, it is hoped that during Biden's tenure, relations between Pakistan and America will be better than today.
Talat Masood, a retired military lieutenant general and a senior analyst for political-military affairs, said that it is not likely that US relations with Pakistan will be fully corrected after Biden becomes US President. We should not live in this hope at all. He said that Biden will restore the dignity of all international organizations. This will help Pakistan
“Expressing hostility toward Pakistan was still the quickest route to national unity (in India)”.
"(Manmohan) Singh had resisted calls to retaliate against Pakistan after the attacks, but his restraint had cost him politically. He feared that rising anti-Muslim sentiment had strengthened the influence of India’s main opposition party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)"
"Across the country (India), millions continued to live in squalor, trapped in sunbaked villages or labyrinthine slums, even as the titans of Indian industry enjoyed lifestyles that the rajas and moguls of old would have envied".
"Violence, both public and private, remained an all-too-pervasive part of Indian life”.
“Joe (Biden) weighed in against the (Usama Bin Laden) raid (on compound in Pakistan)”
“Based on what I’d heard, I decided we had enough information to begin developing options for an attack on the compound. While the CIA team continued to work on identifying the Pacer, I asked Tom Donilon and John Brennan to explore what a raid would look like,” Mr. Obama writes in his memoir.
“The need for secrecy added to the challenge; if even the slightest hint of our lead on bin Laden leaked, we knew our opportunity would be lost. As a result, only a handful of people across the entire federal government were read into the planning phase of the operation,” he said.
“We had one other constraint: Whatever option we chose could not involve the Pakistanis,” he wrote.
“Although Pakistan’s government cooperated with us on a host of counterterrorism operations and provided a vital supply path for our forces in Afghanistan, it was an open secret that certain elements inside the country’s military, and especially its intelligence services, maintained links to the Taliban and perhaps even al-Qaeda, sometimes using them as strategic assets to ensure that the Afghan government remained weak and unable to align itself with Pakistan’s number one rival, India, Obama revealed,” added Mr. Obama
“The fact that the Abbottabad compound was just a few miles from the Pakistan military’s equivalent of West Point only heightened the possibility that anything we told the Pakistanis could end up tipping off our target.”
“Whatever we chose to do in Abbottabad, then, would involve violating the territory of a putative ally in the most egregious way possible, short of war — raising both the diplomatic stakes and the operational complexities,” he wrote.
In the final stages they were discussing two options. The first was to demolish it with an air strike. The second option was to authorise a special ops mission, in which a select team would covertly fly into Pakistan via helicopter, raid the compound, and get out before the Pakistani police or military had time to react.
Despite all the risks involved, Mr. Obama and his national security team opted for the second option, but not before multiple rounds of discussions and intensive planning.
The day before he gave the final approval for the raid, at a Situation Room meeting, Hillary Clinton, the then Secretary of State, said that it was a 51-49 call. Gates recommended against a raid, although he was open to considering the strike option, he said.
Joe (Biden) also weighed in against the raid, arguing that given the enormous consequences of failure, I should defer any decision until the intelligence community was more certain that bin Laden was in the compound.
“As had been true in every major decision I’d made as President, I appreciated Joe’s willingness to buck the prevailing mood and ask tough questions, often in the interest of giving me the space I needed for my own internal deliberations,” Mr. Obama wrote.
After the successful Abbottabad raid, Mr. Obama made a number of calls domestically and internationally, the toughest of which he expected to be that with the then Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, he wrote.
I expected my most difficult call to be with Pakistan’s beleaguered president, Asif Ali Zardari, who would surely face a backlash at home over our violation of Pakistani sovereignty. When I reached him, however, he expressed congratulations and support. ‘Whatever the fallout,’ he said, ‘it’s very good news. He showed genuine emotion, recalling how his wife, Benazir Bhutto, had been killed by extremists with reported ties to al-Qaeda, Mr. Obama wrote.
The Biden administration sees Pakistan as an “essential partner” in any peace process in Afghanistan and believes that “continuing to build relationships with Pakistan’s military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues,” says its nominated defence chief Gen Lloyd J Austin.
Gen Austin made these remarks during his confirmation hearing for the post of secretary of defence before the United States Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
“Pakistan is an essential partner in any peace process in Afghanistan," Austin, a former head of the US Central Command, told the committee. "If confirmed, I will encourage a regional approach that garners support from neighbours like Pakistan, while also deterring regional actors, from serving as spoilers to the Afghanistan peace process.”
Also read: What will Biden mean for Pakistan?
When asked what changes he would recommend to US relations with Pakistan as the new defence chief, Gen Austin said: “I will focus on our shared interests which include training future Pakistan military leaders through the use of International Military Education and Training funds. Pakistan will play an important role in any political settlement in Afghanistan. We also need to work with Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and to enhance regional stability.”
Asked if he has perceived any change in Pakistan’s cooperation with the US since the Trump administration’s decision in 2018 to withhold security assistance, Gen Austin said: “I understand Pakistan has taken constructive steps to meet US requests in support of the Afghanistan peace process. Pakistan has also taken steps against anti-Indian groups, such as Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad, although this progress is incomplete.”
The general, however, acknowledged that “many factors in addition to the security assistance suspension may impact Pakistan’s cooperation, including Afghanistan negotiations and the dangerous escalation following the Pulwama terrorist attack.”
“Pakistan is a sovereign country,” he said when asked what tools and options the US had to influence Pakistan.
“I will press Pakistan to prevent its territory from being used as a sanctuary for militants and violent extremist organisations. Continuing to build relationships with Pakistan’s military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues.”
Peace deal review
“We want to end this so-called forever war," he insisted. "We want to bring our forces home. We want to retain some capacity to deal with any resurgence of terrorism, which is what brought us there in the first place," Blinken said. “We have to look carefully at what has actually been negotiated. I haven't been privy to it yet."
America's President-elect Joe Biden has stated that while he would reduce the number of combat troops in Afghanistan, he would not withdraw US military presence.
Last year, during a debate between Democratic presidential candidates, Biden had said: "We can prevent the United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases — insist the Pakistanis provide bases for us to air lift from and to move against what we know."