As the World Economic Forum kicks off in Davos this week, all eyes are on Narendra Modi, reportedly the first Indian prime minister in 20 years to attend the high-profile gathering of business leaders, economists, and journalists. While French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and even US president Donald Trump are all scheduled to deliver speeches, it’s Modi who’s going first, delivering the inaugural keynote address on Jan. 23.
That may be a sign of India’s growing clout, which has helped develop closer relationships with the US and other Western economies in recent years. But a recent report in The Washington Post suggests that the more things change, the more they stay the same—at least for India. In the report, which discusses the US’s plans to increase the number of troops deployed to Afghanistan, writers Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan say that Trump has a tendency to imitate Modi’s way of speaking.
“Senior administration officials said that the president has been known to affect an Indian accent and imitate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in an Oval Office meeting last year told him, ‘Never has a country given so much away for so little in return’ as the United States in Afghanistan,” the report, published on Jan. 21, says.
While it’s not clear if the US president did so in jest, the news could make things awkward between the two leaders who have been pushing for greater collaboration between their countries on issues such as regional security and trade. Coming after Trump’s controversial comments regarding immigration from what he labelled as “shithole countries,” which sparked renewed allegations that the US president is dangerously racist, the idea of him putting on a fake Indian accent is likely to add fuel to the fire.
Quartz has written to the US department of state for comment, and will update this report if and when it responds.