(L-r): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Kamal Singh/PTI) and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images).
In recent years the world’s largest and strongest democracies, namely India and the United States have witnessed an overthrow in the political status quo. In India, it was the May 2014 massive mandate to Narendra Modi-led BJP that enabled the institution of a central government free from the exigencies of dependency on coalition-partners. In the U.S., it is the surprise arrival of Donald Trump as the 45th President, who pulled off it off with a slim margin of victory, indicating a nation most divided since the Civil War of 1860-’64. The second similarity between the two personalities is that both have come to dominate their nations’ highest table of power riding on the back of a nationalist appeal and a narrative to make their countries “great” again, writes Priyanka Bhardwaj. – @siliconeer #siliconeer #realDonaldTrump #DonaldTrump #WhiteHouse #NarendraModi #India #United States #IndoUSRelations #NaMo
Unlike many prominent heads of state, Modi telephonically congratulated the U.S. Presidential elections and exhibited confidence on bolstering relations with the President-elect’s transition team.
In fact, in India the news of Trump’s win generated excitement and expectations of new levels of mutual cooperation.
In true terms it is too early to state with certainty if trade negotiations, visa restrictions, questions related to military aspects and other areas will be conducted along similar lines as with President Obama’s administration.
For New Delhi it is a ‘wait-and-watch’ on how President-elect Trump treats U.S. allies, partners and foes once he takes office in January 2017.
India’s position as a traditional ally and never dependent, commercially or economically, on the U.S., and presumably amongst the least irksome to Trump as it did not figure among his “targets” during his election speeches makes its case stronger.
According to government sources Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s recent meetings with top incumbents of the transition team of U.S. President-elect in Washington and New York have quite boosted New Delhi’s morale that Indo-U.S. relations would face no disruption.
Reince Priebus, chosen as Chief of Staff to President-elect Trump, has numerous Indian American friends and has been a champion of Republican outreach to the Indian American community.
India welcomed the appointment of Nikki Haley, South Carolina Governor and a committed advocate of Indo-U.S. friendship, as United Nations Ambassador.
At the time of filing this story a strong candidate and a progressive icon, Democratic Congresswoman and a Hindu by faith, Tulsi Gabbard responded positively to Trump’s outreach and there are rumors that she is being considered for a crucial post in his team.
An area where Tulsi and Trump’s outlook match is the threat of Islamist terrorism.
Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General, shares strategic interests commensurate with India’s though his views on immigration and visa issues, particularly the H-1B program are worrisome to some Indian companies dependent on H-1B visas.
Since the start of political backlash against the H-1B program, not all Indian IT firms have moved on to new models of hiring more American citizens in the U.S.
But for those that have, are likely to enjoy U.S. support for their outsourced operations that are run in India.
Voicing optimism over Trump’s election prominent businessman Shalabh Kumar, a crucial member of Donald Trump’s advisory council and with links in the Bharatiya Janata Party and RSS in India, is hopeful that Indo-U.S. trade is set to grow four times if India attracts American investments by easing its business environment and introducing tax reforms.
Kumar has high hopes of 4-5 percent growth in U.S. economy and massive growth in employment opportunities under Trump’s tenure that would wipe out any eventuality of Indian IT professionals losing jobs.
In the area of trade agreements given that Trump gloats his business acumen and defines India an attractive market, as he himself has invested heavily in Indian real estate, it is most likely that India would retain its importance as U.S.’ natural partner.
Trump’s inclination for bilateral trade deals and India’s historic issues with trade agreements may be a palatable idea to both.
A critical area of immense convergence would be Trump’s and Modi’s views on “Islamist terrorism.”
During the run up to the U.S. Presidential elections New Delhi was engaged in fighting terrorism, inflicted time and again by its recalcitrant neighbor, Pakistan.
Defiant terror attacks at Mohra, Tangdhar, Kathua, Samba, Pathankot and then Uri army bases all round the year, besides relentless everyday shelling and brutal killings of Indian army soldiers along the border of the two South Asian neighbors, India and Pakistan, by terrorists based out of Pakistan and enjoying support of its army and Inter Service Intelligence agency have been a major cause of insecurity in the region.
Shifting away from the previous stance of holding dialogs while issuing détentes to Islamabad, Modi has successfully turned a new leaf of vigorously campaigning for a global front to tackling this scourge.
Mounting pressure on Islamabad, last September, the Indian American community launched a White House petition, and two Republican lawmakers, Dana Rohrabacher and Ted Poe, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism moved HR 6069 legislation called the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act in the House of Representatives to designate Pakistan an untrustworthy ally and a terrorist state.
Modi brought in demonetization, Nov. 8, to clean Indian markets of the forged currency that Pakistan was pumping in to support anti-India terror activities. Already Trump’s election has sent shockwaves in Pakistan though it still needs to be seen if he gives his assent to this bill.
If India succeeds in building a pressure on Pakistan with the U.S. help then it could shift this momentum to ignite synergies in other areas such as enabling India’s quest to be a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Something that has troubled India for long is China’s territorial claims, and as Beijing is not in Trump’s good books, it should bring India and Trump’s team together in relation to navigation in South China Sea.
India could also see some benefits in a possible easing of tensions between Russia and U.S.
It is an early bird that catches the worm.
Hence, India’s administration needs to engage and transact fast with Trump’s team to bridge as many gaps as possible.
An invitation to the President-elect for a state visit would in keeping with the protocol of higher diplomacy and renewing the seal of Indo-U.S. bond. Perhaps that would set the tarmac for a Trump-Modi alliance and opportunities for reshaping the edifice of progress.