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Trump’s India policy not clear

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|By Kalyani Shankar| The US election results have surprised many who were batting for the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. This is more so in India where many Indians felt Hillary would be good for India. She is known to many Indians because she was the First Lady for eight years, US Senator for another eight years, and Secretary of State for four and all the time she had been perceived as a friend of India.

However, the Republican candidate Donald Trumph won the race to the White House in Presidential elections on November 8. How did he win? He had his poll strategy well planned. He proved he is a successful politician even though he is new to politics just as he has proved a good businessman. He was an outsider to Washington but it was his Washington bashing which made him popular with the anti establishment voters. Secondly, he was able to connect with the whites, even those in the Mid West speaking the language they want to hear about jobs, immigration, gun control etc. Thirdly, even though the majority of the electorate were disenchanted with both Trumph and Hillary, Trumph proved to be more acceptable than Hillary in the end, Fourthly, he was able to get the support of the Whites, and others who were convinced that the immigrants were taking their jobs. Brexit also helped him to a certain extent.

Fifthly, his victory proves the tradition of not installing the same party for the third time in the White House. Last but not the least, Dame Luck also smiled at him as he has had the last laugh when many were laughing at him 18 months ago for aspiring to become the presidential candidate.

Now that he will be the tenant of the White House, what does it mean for India? Had Hillary been the Prime Minister it would have been the continuation of the Obama policies.

Like in the West, many in India have strongly criticised Donald Trump’s outrageous remarks on women, Muslims, immigration and what not. For long no one took him seriously. He is an unknown entity whose foreign policy aspects are yet to be spelt out particularly pertaining to India. Even the Indian Foreign Ministers and government officials have had no interaction with the business tycoon. Trumph of course came to India to inaugurate the Trump Tower in Mumbai but beyond that not much is known. Of course many feel that Trumph is largely playing to his domestic constituency and he will be a changed man once he occupies the White House.

Most of what Trumph had said so far about India and its neighbours suggest that he would lift the Indo US relationship out of its rut. He could well be moving towards better bilateral relations given the fact that many Indo Americans have donated for his campaign even though during the campaign he had mimicked Indian call centre workers and roared against outsourcing. There are some who believe that he might promote India against China to change the balance of power in Asia as part of his new foreign policy. He had called Pakistan as a most dangerous country and might favour cutting down the US military aid to Islamabad. He has sought the help of India and other nations to address the problem of a “semi-unstable” nuclear Pakistan.

India has certain concerns which Trumph may have to address. The first is about the H1B visas for the Indians who go to the US to work in the IT sector. If he continues to take a strong view, it will affect the Indians greatly. The second is about immigration. There are about 3.2 million Indians in the US and more and more youngsters are moving to the land of opportunities. Many more are going for higher studies. The tightening of the visas and immigration rules might affect these people. Thirdly, till now Trumph has been favouring a protectionist, isolationist rhetoric. He even commented that the international trade is rigged against the US. This attitude will also affect India if he does not switch to a more liberal attitude. Moreover Trump has several times bracketted India and China, as economic competitors, Indian foreign office has to closely watch what Trumph finally does..

His victory speech was conciliatory and indicated that once he moves to 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, he might forget the election rhetorics. In fact South Block had always believed that whoever becomes the President, India will have to deal with him or her. Also many Indian diplomats claim that the House and the Senate have taken a bi-partisan support pertaining to India and the Indian caucus has got members from both parties. The Indo-US relations are at a point where it has become much stronger and also the influence of the Indian Americans are growing.

Trumph in his victory speech said, “We will get along with all those who get along with us.” India is presently closer to the US than ever before and if Trumph means what he has said, New Delhi has nothing much to worry. (Via IPA Newspack)