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Thursday, October 12, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

To anyone who listened to President Trump’s speech before the U.N. General Assembly in September one thing should have been abundantly clear: The president wasn’t there for anyone else’s interests but America’s.

“Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values,” said Mr. Trump, eschewing the traditional coy remarks that foreign leaders often employ to drape their true intentions.


He threatened North Korea for developing nuclear weapons, denounced Iran’s hypocrisy in funding terrorism and destabilizing the Middle East, and criticized Venezuela’s socialist government. He even called out fellow U.N. members for not putting more pressure on “rogue regimes” represented in the body.

According to Mr. Trump, this is not the time for political correctness — especially when at stake is the national security of the American people

“As president of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, headlines branded Mr. Trump’s address as an exercise of extreme nationalism, a jingoistic tirade that accomplished nothing but offend and alienate its listeners. But Mr. Trump’s words didn’t fall on deaf ears.

Every world leader in the room knew exactly what he was talking about. Why else would they come to General Assembly if it wasn’t to represent their self-interests?

The simple truth in Mr. Trump’s speech is that patriotism — one’s sacred sense of duty to country — is being abandoned for political correctness and in doing so, world leaders are forgetting the very people they’re supposed to be fighting for.

Yet putting one’s country first doesn’t mean neglecting our shared responsibility to tackle global issues or forsaking allies. It means that if we actually want to be able to solve the world’s problems, we have to work first for the benefit and interests of our own

This is why Mr. Trump has put such a heavy emphasis on returning power to the American people and fighting for the interests of the working class. He understands that a strong people is the best asset to global peace.

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also putting our national interests first, confronting terrorism and executing a massive plan to invigorate India’s economy.

When India took the dais at the General Assembly, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj openly criticized Pakistan’s continuous export of terrorism. “If Pakistan had spent on its development what it has spent on developing terror, both Pakistan and the world would be safer and better off today,” she said in her scorching speech.

On the economic side, Mr. Modi has launched one ambitious initiative after another. And though some have been met with serious challenges and concerns — such as last year’s sudden demonetization order or the rocky implementation of the goods-and-services tax — there’s no question the prime minister wants to make India into an economic powerhouse.

The recent launch of the “Make in India” campaign, which invites foreign investment, is already gaining momentum. A deal has been struck with Japan to build India’s first-ever bullet train, connecting Mumbai and Ahmedabad, and just recently the world’s second-largest dam was unveiled in Gujarat. Besides irrigating hundreds of thousands of hectares of land for agricultural use and delivering drinking water to scores of urban centers and thousands of villages, the Sardar Sarovar Dam will provide power to the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

And this is not even counting the aggressive plans to transition India’s infrastructure into alternative forms of energy, like electric cars, or the deals brokered to construct new facilities to build U.S. warplanes, which will require skilled workers and engineers.

India is desperate and ready for change, yet while we take these impressive strides, our government must not forget the hundreds of millions of Indians at the bottom rung of the economic ladder who have yet to reap the benefits of globalization. Economic growth should not benefit only the largest enterprises or the privileged.

According to government estimates, 86 percent of India’s workers are employed in the informal or unorganized economy, yet they produce more than 40 percent of India’s gross domestic product. It’s this sector of our economy that needs the most attention if we truly want transformative change, because it affects the majority of the population. And with the yearly addition of 1 million young adults to the work force — many of which enter into this sector — this is an issue India cannot afford to ignore.

If our youth do not have the opportunity for upward mobility in life and at work, they will grow frustrated and disillusioned. It’s on this kind of frustration that radical extremists prey upon to destabilize and weaken societies.

“Today, if we do not invest ourselves, our hearts, and our minds in our nations, if we will not build strong families, safe communities, and healthy societies for ourselves, no one can do it for us,” Mr. Trump warned the General Assembly.

Like President Trump, Prime Minister Modi knows that prioritizing India’s interests is not selfish but necessary. If we want a viable future for our country and to be able to respond and contribute to worldwide needs, we must start with putting India first.

• Joseph D’Souza is the moderating bishop of the Good Shepherd Church and Associated Ministries of India. He is president of the All India Christian Council and is the founder and international president of the Dalit Freedom Network.


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