Frank Wisner

U.S. Ambassador (Ret.)

HITCHCOCK LECTURE: The U.S. And India: Nationalism, Economics, and COVID-19

About the Topic

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“World’s oldest democracy meets world’s largest democracy,” a billboard proclaimed during President Trump’s state visit to India in late February. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a Trump welcome rally of 110,000. Yet the visit failed to yield a long-sought trade deal. It was further marred by anti-Muslim attacks fueled by Modi’s drive toward Hindu nationalism. Weeks later, the two leaders confronted COVID-19. While Modi ordered a national lockdown, Trump left lockdown orders to governors. By Memorial Day, the U.S. reported the world’s highest number of known cases and fatalities, while India faced alarming spikes, as it moves to ease the lockdown. At home, both nations deal with upended economies and, abroad, an increasingly assertive Beijing. The Trump Administration replaced early praise for China’s handling of the Wuhan outbreak with bitter criticism and a renewed trade war. India seeks to draw manufacturers away from China. It also reports increased skirmishing along the 2500-mile Sino-Indian border. Given their hostility to global supply chains and preference for tariffs, how do Modi and Trump pursue mutual economic interests? Facing a rising China, how do India and the U.S. approach their security concerns? As both leaders struggle to retain power in a pandemic, what democratic values are threatened in their respective democracies?

About the Speaker

Frank Wisner is “one of the supreme American diplomats of the last 30 to 40 years,” R. Nicholas Burns told The New York Times. Ambassador Wisner’s diplomatic career spanned four decades and eight American presidents. He served as ambassador to Zambia, Egypt, the Philippines, and India. Retired in 1997, Mr. Wisner continued to serve when Presidents called. In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed him special representative to the Kosovo Status Talks helping to secure that nation’s independence. In January 2011, at the start of the Arab uprising, President Barack Obama dispatched Mr. Wisner to encourage Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak to step aside. Today he is an international affairs adviser at Squire Patton Boggs.