Nikki Haley Talks a Lot But Her Silence Is Louder – We Know Why
One can’t help it. One feels good about an Indian (well, okay Indian-origin) girl growing up to do big things. Nikki – probably a pet name that her family lovingly used, a word that in Punjabi actually means ‘little one’ – has grown up to occupy one of the biggest, most powerful positions in the world. She is an ambassador of one of the most powerful, most heavily militarised nations in the world, deputed to the United Nations – the ultimate world body.
Haley, who is neither the president, nor the vice-president, neither handling trade nor defence nor external affairs portfolios in the US?
Will Haley’s Visit Really Help India-US Ties?
Nikki Haley has said she’s here to make India-US ties stronger. So, she’s visiting religious places of all faiths, and meeting freed child slaves. And of course, she’s talking selectively about terrorism.
Iran, Iraq, Syria.
The usual parroting of trigger words like missiles, terrorists, and mentioning nations that are suffering the consequences of war, at least one of which was ruined under false pretexts by other former presidents and prime ministers. The truth of America being lied to so that Iraq (the Iraqi people) could be destroyed, the truth about the defence business interests of former presidents, the truth of growing neo-Nazi groups after Trump won the election – none of it has changed the way American representatives speak of other nations.
When pointed questions are asked about international concern over the rise of extreme right wing groups of the non-Muslim type in India, Nikki Haley speaks instead of religious freedom. Possibly this is because the ‘T’ word can’t be used for a country that isn’t Iran, or Iraq, or Syria. Or Libya or Egypt or Palestine.
Iran is special, of course, because it is not yet at war, and it is essential to diplomatically isolate a nation before you can bring it to its knees and take control of its resources. Thus, the rhetoric about India needing to ‘think about’ who it wants to do business with.
Nikki Haley & Post-Truth Politics
One understands. If Nikki Haley is going to run for president, she needs to talk the talk. She needs to breezily mention a personal interest in strengthening ties between the US and India, while also talking tough – telling us who we can be friends with, who we must do ‘katti’ (severe ties) with.
The United Nations is supposed to help prevent wars and minimize their human impact. The US has quit the UN human rights council (UNHRC) after a report commented on growing income disparity and poverty in Nikki Haley’s country. It has fallen to Haley to call the UN human rights council “an organisation that is not worthy of its name" and “a cesspool of political bias”.
Who can blame her?
She needs to go on saying ‘wealthiest and freest’ even as black moms and dads get shot in their own backyards, cars and homes – and while kids of all colour get killed in schools, and while homelessness is rife, and statistics suggest that the minimum wage in all American states do not permit workers to rent a two-bedroom apartment – so either these wealthy and free families are squished into tiny homes, or they’re going to have to stay childless.
It is actually ridiculous given that America is ‘wealthy and free’.
Nikki Haley Is Only Being a Career Politician
Despite being the child of immigrants, Nikki Haley can’t afford to take a pro-migrant stand. Instead, she will draw a line between legal and illegal migrants and keep parroting the word ‘law’ as if the meaning of that word was somehow leached of its own meaning. The law matters, she says, knowing full well that war, persecution and hungry children recognise no law.
There will be no mention of the poverty-line in India, which is actually the starvation line, or the fact that it is these conditions that push children into slave labour and women into sex slavery. Haley certainly isn’t going to talk about India’s socialist dreams and a model of school and university education in the 1950’s and 60’s that enabled her parents to study without going into debt, and then to move abroad. She is absolutely not talking about the great privilege of families in India where young people finish college and can afford to apply to foreign universities, or pay their way through legal immigration services.
The desi phrase for it is: baatein gol-mol karna – to turn words around into a ball of nothing – to make suggestions rather than commitments. Haley has proved to be adept at this.
As for India, the questions nobody has seen fit to put to her as a representative of the Trump administration, are the questions that will decide the future of India-US ties.
(Annie Zaidi is a playwright, short filmmaker, writer and documentary filmmaker. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)