After an eventful campaign, filled with a plethora of unpredictable twists, Trump triumphed over Hillary. Is this good? No one knows. But is it good for India? Well I’d have to say we don’t have to be worried about anything.
Even though he is in the habit of grabbing female genitalia, walks into changing rooms unannounced, evading taxes, intimidating immigrants and pledging to ban Muslims he has been a successful businessman. But apart from these skeletons in his closet and ethical shortcomings, what do we know about his perspective on America’s foreign policy, trade relations — stuff that may affect us Indians and the world around us?
The scant awareness is due to the media disposing off Trump as an unproductive candidate with no chance of winning. Owing to this he didn’t get his fair share of TV time, and what he did get were covering his scandals.
So, now let me decipher how Trump presidency would impact the world and more importantly India. Let me try to paint a coherent picture of who the most powerful man sitting in the oval office is. Allow me then to demonstrate how the Indo-US relationship will mutate under Donald Trump.
Primary reactions reveal that Pakistan and China are nervous about altering their alliance with the US. This implies good news for India as the US under the Democrats had been very convenient for both. While Pakistan has profitably exploited its geostrategic positioning to extort the US into catering a perpetual line of credit, China is a black hole for American jobs and runs a huge trade surplus. In conjunction, it is not an unprecedented development, to learn that both the countries have issued statements cautioning US to keep the arrangements as they were. While China is tied up in knots about increased American isolationism, Pakistan’s nervousness is rooted in Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.
As Pakistan’s foreign policy analyst Hasan Aksari Rizvi statement saying, “America will not abandon Pakistan, but definitely, Trump will be a tougher President than Hillary Clinton for Pakistan… I think India will have a better and smoother interaction compared to Pakistan;” Confirms that Trump’s presidency has stirred things up.
Trump’s mindset is a cocktail of radical policies to abolish Islamist terrorism and nuclear weaponry that is brewing in Pakistan. It is ostensible from his assertion that Pakistan is a dangerous country and the US needs to work very meticulously with India to check it. Again, it is difficult to know how much of this he may be able to successfully put into motion once he sits down with the Secretary of State, but this should give a hint to Pakistan that it may not be business as usual. While Hillary Clinton’s presidency would have safeguarded a measure of steadiness of Barack Obama’s policies towards China, Trumps presidency might be a mixed bag with more duties and tariffs on imports hitting China hard at a time when its GDP is struggling with a slowdown and bursting of credit bubbles. The consequence would be that sovereign nations affected by China’s antagonistic geopolitical motivation might veer towards the other great Asian power: India. However it would be appropriate to reminisce that at this stage, all of this is little more than conjecture and Trump is spectacularly erratic.
Trade relations: Trump vowed, just like Nigel Farage did, that he would reduce duties, taxes and tariffs but in a world which runs on inter-connectivity, that would mean raising costs of the nuts and bolts of the motor that propels America. The American economy depends on access to a global supply chain that produces parts used by innumerable industries. Mexico and China being the main players. Disruption threatens to increase costs for American households. Tariffs on China might provoke a trade war that could slow economic growth, while most likely just shifting factory work to Vietnam and India. If America does increases the cost of trade with China, India stands to benefit in more ways than one.
Immigration policy: This has been the major reason causing unrest among Indians especially among students looking at pursuing their masters. Given the fact that we are witnessing a global reaction against lenient borders and easier immigration policies, one may be inclined to think that Trump’s term might be bad for India’s IT industry. But the reality is rather convoluted. Trump has been inconsistent; at certain times, he has praised the influence of skilled Indian workers and at other times nettling US companies for hiring them in large numbers.
Trump said in October last year that he was in favor of bringing skilled foreign workers into the US, as long as they come legally. He repeated it in March saying how Silicon Valley cannot be run without Indians and that very smart ones educated in the US should be allowed to remain there. Yet he has also canvassed for increasing the H1B visa fees and pressurized US companies into hiring domestic workers.
Overall, it is safe to assume that the Trump regime may not go for any radical overhaul of the system.
Between the leaders
Trump has never hidden his admiration for Narendra Modi and has been lavish in his praise for Indians. Speaking to NDTV during a fundraiser organized by Republican Hindu Coalition, Trump said: “I have great respect for Indians. I have so many friends that are Hindu and they are amazing entrepreneurs. I have jobs going up in India right now. I have great respect for India. It’s an amazing country.” He also asserted that were he to be elected, “Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in the White House”.
He even borrowed Modi’s 2014 slogan during the campaign, tweaking it to “Ab ki baar, Trump sarkar” during an Indian American outreach program. He has praised Modi’s leadership, his effort to simplify the tax system through GST and on his part, Modi has carefully veered away from reacting to any of the controversies that dogged Trump during the election campaign. With a better personal equation between the two leaders, Indo-US relationship should remain on the path of a greater synergy.
When it comes to government to government relationship, A Trump regime might be just what India needed, which is boxed in by an irritant in Pakistan and a formidable power in China. Indo-US areas of interest converge on a number of issues and Trump, for one, has not been hesitant in calling India America’s “natural ally”. Indian political leaders should find it conducive to deal with a businessman rather than a career politician like Hillary Clinton who had a greater understanding of bilateral relations but also a baggage of past mutual suspicion. Trump, who still has large business interests in India, should be a refreshing change. On India’s areas of foremost concern such as cross-border terrorism, Trump has taken a firmer stand than Clinton would have ever taken. A Trump regime should be good for India.