Trump’s Victory | Implications for India

Mr. Donald Trump surprised the concrete elite structures of the world by capturing the White House in a triumphant electoral victory in the world’s oldest democracy, the United States. Although the policies at the highest level do not change radically irrespective of the fears generated by the liberal armchair intellectuals, India should remain cautious about the prospects of change in India-US relationship with the change in US administration in 2017.

Trump administration | Expectations for India

  • During the election campaign, Mr. Trump praised India’s growth story and confirmed that he is looking forward to work with PM Narendra Modi. He also addressed an Indian-American session wherein he reiterated this support further.
  • Trump has not really focused on China yet, but his exhortation to South Korea and Japan to arm themselves to counter China is significant for India. Even in this case of perceived mishap, it would possibly lead to a military powerful South Korea and Japan. This would lead to a multipolar Asia, which India desires.
  • He has also promised to ramp up US military presence in South China Sea which if materialised would bring joy in the power circles of New Delhi and Tokyo. It might push the ASEAN nations to make a choice, and not follow Philippines radical policies.
  • He has promised to take on China to task on unfair trade practices, India would be on the mat as well because its own trade policies are regressive.
  • India has benefited from globalisation, but Mr. Trump represents a protectionist ideology that might cross-wires between India and the US.
  • He has promised not to move forward with regional trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). For India, which does not qualify for the TPP yet, it might be an opportunity to play a better trade game.
  • Trump has been supportive of repairing America’s relationship with Russia, which might give India a great deal of strategic comfort. If he succeeds in bringing Russia back into play as a power, it may not fall into China’s lap, and the emerging global bipolarity will be checked.
  • It is quite unclear yet about Mr. Trump’s Pakistan policy. During the campaign trail, he was often attacked by his rivals for jeopardising American strategic interests in South Asia (in case he assumes the Oval Office), because of his business interests in India. Moreover, his tirade against Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism provides some hope for New Delhi.
  • In West Asia, Mr. Trump will possibly be more detached than his predecessors from the regional power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. America needs West Asian oil less than ever and its security footprint could further reduce. For some time, India has been improving its own presence in the region, building relationships and creating interdependencies.

India should not pre-judge the next President-elect merely on the campaign rhetoric. We should think beyond H1-B and L1 visas. Immigration and visas are a big reason for Mr. Trump’s victory, so India has to go beyond these. We should seize the opportunity to reshape the India-US relationship with the new team.

Trump and ModiPrime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Mr. Trump on his victory with a very positive reply from the other side. It is well known that a Republican in Oval Office is more friendly to India than a Democrat.

Raj Malhotra IAS Study Group.