American presidents, from George W.Bush to Barack Obama, have supported India’s rise for a larger role in global affairs. In the Trump presidency, it is expected that he will likely continue strong ties with the world’s largest democracy with mutual consensus as the foundation for this cooperation. Throughout his election campaign, Mr. Trump had supported India and assured of better ties once he gets elected. However, he has clearly signaled that American interests will be a priority on his mind.
"Let us analyze how India-US ties would unfold in the Trump presidency"
His ties with India will, unsurprisingly, have the Pakistan element in picture. As he has vowed to deal strongly with the ISIS, his approach towards Afghanistan will have an impact on many terror activities in Pakistan, like the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban as well as those directed towards India. It is expected that aid flows to Pakistan will now be closely watched and regulated pending Pakistan’s action on these terror outfits. It will be a benefit for India as it has been trying hard for diplomatic isolation of Pakistan post Pathankot and Uri attacks.
It was its strong support that India got the waiver from NSG for nuclear deals. It has also supported the recent demonetization drive. Mr. Trump’s presidency is expected to maintain more or less the same attitude towards India.
He has also clearly expressed his displeasure against US engagement in alliances with Europe and Asia owing to their usefulness and economic weight for the US. This approach will bring a fresh outlook for India as traditional ties will be replaced by reciprocity. India can also heave a sigh of relief as the new president elect has warmed up to Russia, whose closeness to India was a point of delicate balance between two major powers. Trump’s policy towards China is marked with disapproval in South China Sea and Taiwan related issues. India has an opportunity in this scenario as a US push for greater Indian role could be expected for maintaining a regional power balance in South Asia.
However, issues like US support for India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UNSC remains unclear as Mr. Trump has not indicated his position about UN. However, given the strong and same approach adopted by Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump against terrorism, India and US will find a common ground against Islamist terrorism.
India and US have a stronger defense partnership. Joint military exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas’ and naval exercise ‘Malabar’ have boosted confidence and bolstered military partnership. The signing of LEMOA agreement between the two countries has also opened up each other’s bases for limited use for logistics and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief programmes. US has also announced India as a strategic defense partner. Technology transfer and defense deals are expected to maintain the same course as was during the Obama presidency. It is also expected that India’s role in Indian Ocean as a major power will be strengthened with US support to counter China.
US is one of the largest trading partners of India. However, in the case of Mr. Trump economic ties could be less opening as he has been apprehensive of trade agreements and views them a reason for loss of American jobs. His approach towards H1-B visas is also of a protectionist one as he has vowed to stop the work visa programme which is going to affect India negatively. India also has raised up this dispute at WTO apart from the one which was raised by the US on the mandatory domestic content requirement of solar PV cells.
Apart from these disputes, India’s patent laws and protection of innovation will be another point of difference between the two countries.
However, with the scrapping of Trans-Pacific Partnership, which had strong IP protection measures, India will have less to worry. It can now work for stronger economic ties with ASEAN through RCEP.
One of the key concerns India will have is the opposition of Mr. Trump against climate change pacts and agreements. He has also opposed the Paris agreement which is considered imperative to limit the global temperature rise. Clean energy cooperation has been one of the strong pillars of US-India ties. India also needs clean energy to drive its economy even as it lacks credible sources of oil and gas while it remains committed to achieve its INDC of reducing its emissions intensity by 35% by 2030 from 2005 levels. To be able to do this, India needs both financial resources as well as technology transfer to be able to utilize the vast solar energy it has been bestowed with. If Trump presidency decides a negative approach towards climate change issues, India will be affected in its aspirations to develop an environmentally friendly clean energy resource base.
India and US ties have reached great heights partly due to similar views on varied issues and partly due to their own interests. As Trump presidency begins, it is expected that the present state of relations will be maintained for the mutual benefit of both countries. However, Mr. Trump’s view of ‘America First’ cannot be ignored and India will have to develop more diplomatic engagement with the US to clear the differences, if any arises.