With the recent killings of an Indian engineer and two Indian American citizens, the soft power discourse has revivified in the emotionally-charged atmosphere in the United States. More than a decade ago, the American scholar Joseph Nye had urged the American leadership to embrace the power of seduction, attraction and co-optation and to forgo reliance on military might to achieve its foreign policy goals. With the assumption of presidency by Donald Trump, the necessity for preserving the soft power has turned inwardly in the backdrop of the issue of inter-racial harmony! On this front, the United States seems to be sliding into the precarious situation with which the Chinese Communist leadership has had grappled. In the face of social protests and ethnic minority unrest, for instance, the notion of “harmonious society” received official endorsement for public consumption in China. Similarly, the trio of apprehension over assaults, anxiety about future, and alienation from the American mainstream has begun to cloud the consciousness of Indian Americans. As a matter of fact, the critical role of this community in bringing the two countries together faces even a more complex political challenge. Known as the most successful of all immigrants and having a reputation for originating from the world’s largest democracy, Indian Americans are beginning to discover a void in connecting with the mainstream citizenry. As such, the supposedly clichés of shared democratic values are clamoring for revitalization for fostering Indo-U.S. ties.
Wider ramifications can be seen rising owing to the overly provocative speeches and slogans against immigrants and foreign countries, unless the Trump administration adopts a conscientious approach for undoing the harm caused to the social fabric. What are those ramifications? First, the prestige of the U.S. as a safe and welcoming land for immigrants is receiving a setback. News reports have surfaced that prospective Indian students are reconsidering their plans to study in the US. For instance, the Washington Post cited a student: “The U.S. was never considered a place to fear going, but after these incidents, I will think twice.” Even though there is an argument that these incidents will recede into oblivion, what should be of concern to the US government is that the issue of racism in America has surfaced in the consciousness of the foreign audience. It detracts from its image of being an exceptional country where outsiders may dream of shining in different spheres of human endeavor, be it business, science, engineering, or medicine. Immigrants’ contributions are a collective achievement that lends strength to the American Dream. Unlike some other countries that are known for blatant xenophobia and discrimination against immigrants, the U.S. has been in a moral position to take pride in nurturing and nourishing diversity. Any further hate crime would only erode its cultural capital that takes time to build. Diversity is the core of the personality of America as a nation- like the priceless antiquities in the Middle East which are unfortunately being marauded by ISI bigots.
Second, China, as the supreme rival of the US in the post-Cold War era, is feverishly attempting to project its genial image. Any downturn in America’s reputation could serve as an ingredient to make its soft power project savory enough to serve to the world. Third, there is no denying the fact that there are numerous stories of bonhomie, racial harmony and camaraderie experienced by Indian nationals in the US. However, because of a bunch of hostile individuals, the warmth and friendliness of the rest of the population might pale into insignificance. Affection billows in the heart but mistreatment spreads like a wild fire!
No doubt, the issues of terrorism and illegal immigration pose real challenges to the U.S., but a reckless response is an amplifier of disasters. It’s not yet late to give prudence a chance and prevent a mishap.