Frosty ties between US president Donald Trump and Tillerson threaten to take sheen off Ivanka Trump’s first high-profile event outside of America
It appears that the continued frosty relationship between US president Donald Trump and his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, could take much of the sheen off Ivanka Trump’s first high-profile event outside of America – the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) to be hosted by India in Hyderabad between November 28 and 30.
While the Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is busy drawing out plans to bowl over the daughter of and senior advisor to US President Donald Trump with its hospitality, reports have emerged regarding Tillerson’s diktat to his top officials in the US State Department to opt out of the high-powered delegation that Ivanka was supposed to lead at the GES, 2017.
If the reports are true, then they do not bode well for the Indian establishment which had hoped to bill the Summit as a major endorsement by the US of Modi’s initiatives on making India a key destination for entrepreneurial investment.
The Indian government had hoped that since Ivanka would herself be leading the US delegation, the attendance of the most influential US government officials at the event was a given.
President Trump’s daughter had been billed by the Indian government as the ‘star attraction’ at the event. However, various departments under the Centre had hoped that top US officials accompanying her to the summit would endorse Modi’s economic agenda and unwittingly deflate the criticism being hurled at the Prime Minister on this front by his opponents domestically.
But the Modi government perhaps did not gauge the machinations within the labyrinthine White House camp politics – especially the ongoing cold war of sorts between US president Donald Trump and Secretary Tillerson – well enough.
According to a report by CNN, the US Secretary of State “isn’t sending a high-level delegation to support her (Ivanka) amid reports of tensions” between him and the White House.
The CNN report claimed that multiple US State Department officials, as well as a source close to the White House, had confirmed Tillerson’s decision to not send senior State Department officials to the GES, 2017. The CNN report added that Tillerson’s decision “is not related to his key project of slashing the Department’s budget” – an order given to him earlier this month by US president Donald Trump – and “is more to do with the fact that Ivanka Trump is leading the US delegation this year.”
The CNN report quoted a senior State Department official as saying: “No one higher than the deputy assistant secretary is allowed to participate. The secretary (Tillerson) and his top staff have insisted on approving all travel – even the most minute details.”
The decision by Tillerson – if true – is being viewed in the American corridors of power as one meant to deflate efforts by President Trump to give her daughter the aura of an important player in the US administration. The Secretary of State’s decision is even being viewed by some observers as politically suicidal since President Trump isn’t likely to take the rather personal slight lightly and could show Tillerson the door from his team, much like he has already done with over half a dozen of his top appointees since assuming office of the President earlier this year.
Meanwhile, it now remains to be seen how Narendra Modi and the Indian establishment will recalibrate their plans according to these latest machinations in White House politics.