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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  What does Donald Trump’s presidency mean for India?
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What does Donald Trump’s presidency mean for India?

Donald Trump seen as an 'unknown quantity', with comments on India by turns critical and complimentary

US president elect Donald Trump. Photo: APPremium
US president elect Donald Trump. Photo: AP

With Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stunning Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the race to the White House on a strong anti-establishment vote, questions are being asked about the impact of a Trump presidency on India.

Trump has no experience serving in government and is seen as an “unknown quantity". Add to that the comments that he has made during his presidential run from June last year in which he was both critical and complimentary by turns about India.

“I have great respect for Hindus. I have so many friends that are Hindu. They are great people, amazing entrepreneurs," he said at an Indian-American convention in New Jersey in October.

But in an address to his supporters in Florida earlier this week, Trump reportedly said: “We are living through the greatest jobs theft in the history of the world. There’s never been a country that’s lost jobs like we do, so stupidly, so easy to solve...

“Goodrich Lighting Systems laid off 255 workers and moved their jobs to India," Trump was cited as saying by PTI.

Government officials in New Delhi did not offer any comments on Trump’s win. Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his congratulations to Trump on his election.

“Congratulations @realDonaldTrump on being elected as the 45th US President," Modi said in a Twitter post. “We look forward to working with you closely to take India-US bilateral ties to a new height. @realDonaldTrump," he said in another tweet.

President Pranab Mukherjee also took to Twitter to congratulate Trump.

According to Lalit Mansingh, former foreign secretary and ex-Indian ambassador to the US, India-US relations could see a small period of “interruption as Trump assembles his team."

“If you look at the references made to India from the Republican platform by Trump, they are interesting in terms of calling for close geo-political relations and calling for better relations with India. There have been strong comments on terrorism," Mansingh said. “I would say that Trump is likely to follow the policies set by his predecessors."

As if to reassure the sceptics in India, US ambassador Richard Verma said in a statement that “ties that bind our two countries together are built on our shared democratic values, and go beyond the friendship of the American President and the Indian Prime Minister."

“They go beyond the economic and people-to-people ties. The US-India relationship is vitally important, it is bipartisan, and it is only growing stronger. Here’s to another four years of robust U.S.-India Dosti," Verma said.

According to Mansingh, there was a lot of similarity between Trump and Modi; both leaders are pro-business and there exists a seeming ideological convergence between them.

“I think ties will resume their momentum and the two sides will resume their dialogues soon. The US will remain an important strategic and investment partner of India," he said.

Manoj Joshi, an analyst with the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank, says that India does not impact the US the way China, Russia and Europe do.

“Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and job outsourcing issues are there. But they are minor in the larger scale of problems that the US must tackle to reduce its debt, reform its tax laws, rewrite trading agreements and get on to the path of growth which also benefits the average person," he said of possible friction points with the US.

Trump, in the run-up to his election, had threatened US companies moving jobs to India with high tax penalties. Indian IT firms have concerns over mobility issues of employees. Visas that Indian IT professionals can apply for are capped at 65,000 and slapped with higher charges—a sore point with Indian IT industry.

India and the US have a target of increasing bilateral trade to $500 billion from the current more than $100 billion, but no timeline has been set for this.

Mansingh dismissed Trump’s comments on Indian businesses as “election time rhetoric."

“These are anyway issues that are part of our dialogues with the US," he said, referring to the strategic and commercial dialogue between India and the US.

Mansingh pointed to China and Pakistan as two areas that are likely to see a convergence between India and the US in a Trump presidency.

“There could be a more robust acceptance of Pakistan as a source of terrorism," Mansingh said, adding “Our expectation is that the Trump presidency will be strongly critical of Pakistan."

India has mounted a campaign to isolate Pakistan on the issue of cross-border terrorism since the 18 September Uri attack in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed.

“The Trump presidency could also take a tougher stance on China," Mansingh said adding that this was against the backdrop of China being seen as a competitor to the US.

India-China ties are prickly because of an unresolved border dispute, India’s burgeoning trade deficit with the neighbour and China’s support to its “all weather" friend Pakistan. India on the other hand sees a convergence of views with the US on China’s rather unsettling rise in the region.

“Climate change is already having major impacts on the lives of millions of people in the United States and around the world. Droughts, flooding and other types of extreme weather events are becoming stronger and more frequent, and the U.S. is not immune. This is a global crisis that President-elect Trump will have to address. The U.S. has joined the Paris Agreement and must continue to meet its climate obligations. Leaving this important international agreement will damage our credibility with important overseas partners and would be a major setback in the fight against climate change," said Kelly Stone, ActionAid policy analyst, speaking at the UN climate talks in Morocco in response to the election result in the USA.

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Published: 10 Nov 2016, 01:12 AM IST
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