To see how Trump's changing America, look at India
Posted December 23, 2019 2:13 p.m. EST
CNN — To understand just how fundamentally President Donald Trump has shifted core principles underlying US foreign policy, take a look at India.
More than 20 people have died in India's protests against a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims. The law fast-tracks Indian citizenship for refugees fleeing persecution in neighboring countries, but only if they're Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian -- which critics say enshrines religious discrimination and threatens India's secular democracy.
You might expect to find the US, the leading secular democracy, at the front of the queue in condemning any measure making religion a criterion for citizenship. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama extolled US synergies with the world's largest democracy while forging new ties with India. Bush's administration even banned Narendra Modi -- then Gujarat state's chief minister -- from traveling to the US after he was accused of failing to stop Hindu riots targeting minority Muslims.
Trump however, has his own personal synergies with Modi; they even held hands at the Hindu nationalist prime minister's massive "Howdy Modi!" rally in Texas earlier this year. The US President has rarely met a nationalist movement that he didn't love (with the possible exception of Xi Jinping's plans to make China great again) and he sees New Delhi as a potential lynchpin of his administration's Indo-Pacific strategy to counter Beijing's influence. Plus, similarities between India's new law and his own 2016 campaign call for a ban on Muslims traveling to the US are hard to ignore.
The US ambassador at large for religious freedom has called on India specifically to abide by its constitutional commitments. But while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has condemned repression of Muslims in other countries, he declined to criticize the citizenship law while meeting the Indian foreign minister here in Washington, last week. So far his boss is keeping quiet, too.
Postcard from India
The protests currently consuming India include a unique element: At every gathering, protestors young and old are reading out the constitution or singing the national anthem.
As demonstrators wave flags high in the air, their desperation over the threat to their country's secular identity hangs heavy. They bear banners evoking India's historic struggle for independence, and its pluralistic fabric today. "Save the constitution," they read. "Hindus and Muslims are brothers, why are you dividing us?"
Protestors are not just incensed over the passage of a law that introduces religious criteria into citizenship claims -- they fear that the ruling right-wing government is hijacking India's founding vision of diversity. -- CNN's Swati Gupti writes to Meanwhile from Delhi
'You have blood on your hands'
Russia and China on Friday vetoed a UN resolution that would have allowed 12 more months of humanitarian aid to be sent to Syrians in rebel-held areas from two points in Turkey and one in Iraq.
"Russia and China, who have chosen to make a political statement by opposing this resolution, you have blood on your hands," Pompeo said Saturday. The aid would have helped 4 million Syrian refugees, he also said.
'We're all trying to get up to speed'
US senators are studying up for Trump's impeachment trial, expected in January. "We're all trying to get up to speed because this doesn't happen very often," Republican Sen. John Cornyn from Texas told CNN's Claire Foran. He said he's reading "The Impeachers," a new book on the impeachment and trial of former President Andrew Johnson, the first US presidential impeachment.
'Guess what's in the 'Christmas Gift''
While new satellite images suggest that North Korea is busy building up its missile launching capabilities, the chance that it will have an ICBM or nuclear test around Christmas is "very low," CNN's Will Ripley reports. The country's promised "Christmas gift" to the US will instead likely be a new, hard-line approach in dealing with America.
Pyongyang is currently weighing Trump's political future as 2020 challengers emerge. Leader Kim Jong Un may be more willing to engage in dialogue if Trump seems likely to win a second term, but for now, the US President is "seen as politically weakened and therefore unable to implement any agreement reached," Ripley writes.
In the Democratic race for president, Pete Buttigieg is under fire for being too young to have the nuclear codes, and Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders for being too old. Meanwhile, the 70-year-old Elizabeth Warren is making the case that while she's been around the block, she'd still be the youngest woman ever inaugurated.
Thanks for reading and Happy Hanukkah to all who are celebrating. Winter break has emptied the US Senate and House, and not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. The President's at Mar-a-Lago for his holidays, so keep an eye out for tweets about impeachment trial delays. "The Dems wish it would all end," said he in a Sunday eruptus, "Their case is dead, their poll numbers are horrendous!"