U.S. President Donald Trump’s high-profile visit to India from Feb. 24 to 25 had a fivefold significance. It was Trump’s first visit to India; it was a standalone trip with no stopover in any other country despite the length of the journey; it provided spectacle on a grand scale in an era in which optics are growing in electoral importance; it added substance on the security side; but it failed to consummate a trade deal.

Both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump are instinctive strongmen who love showmanship, have mass social media followings, bask in mass adulation and react harshly to perceived slights and criticisms. This explains the success of their mutual charm offensives supported by huge adoring crowds who back the Make America/India Great Again agendas.

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