President Trump has been a continuous topic of the surprise to the world right from his unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton to the recent appointments in his cabinet. The U.S. being one of the most powerful among all nations, its policies and the new cabinet will directly affect India. Though India-US relations are spread across all departments but pronounced significance will be Secretary of State, Defence, Commerce, U.S. Trade Representative(USTR), NSA(National Security Adviser) and EPA(Environment Protection Agency).
The appointment of Scott Pruitt, a former attorney general from Oklahoma as head of the EPA and Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, as Secretary of Energy; both being vocal climate change deniers and strong supporters of the fossil fuel industry are pointing towards the slowing down of the use of renewable sources. Since India is one of the countries most adversely impacted by climate change is at the risk!
James Mattis, a former general who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan is Mr Trump’s appointee as Secretary of Defence replacing Ashton Carter. James Mattis has even blamed Obama Govt. for not taking the terrorism seriously and he strongly believes that in west Asia, a focus should be on defeating Islamic State(IS). If the heat of Islamic Terrorism from U.S. side continues over Pakistan, it will serve a great purpose to India.
Michael Flynn, as National Security Adviser(NSA), is a keen opposer of Pakistan. In his book “The Field of Fight” he wrote “Countries like Pakistan need to be told that we will not tolerate the existence of training camps and safe havens for Taliban, Haqqani, and Al-Qaeda forces on their territory, nor will we permit their banks and other financial institutions to move illicit funds for the terror network. They are going to have to choose, and if they continue to help the jihadis we are going to treat them harshly, cutting them off from American assistance.” Mr Flynn has also served some years in a military and this choice of Trump suggests a more robust and hard-line approach to terrorism and it will serve well for India-U.S. cooperation in this critical area.
Secretary of State
President has appointed Mr Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, the U.S.’s largest oil company as his secretary of state. Mr Tillerson has no diplomatic experience but is familiar with Russia where he has had extensive business interests and a very close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is quite clear that Mr Trump wishes to normalise relations with Russia and work with Mr Putin to tackle shared challenges such as the IS and jihadi terrorism. It’s a welcome move on part of India since this would diminish Russian dependence over Beijing. In past few years, particularly after the Ukranian Crisis, U.S. and Europe opposed Russia which had driven it closer to China. Russia has started aligning itself with China on some issues of concern to India, for example, weapon sales to Pakistan.Hopefully, this would be a good development from the Indian perspective. Also as a CEO of a multinational company, he would look upon India as a significant economic opportunity for U.S.
Commerce and Trade
In commerce and trade relations, India could be headed for some tough times with U.S. as the new administration pushes ahead with its ‘America first’ agenda.Mr. Trump has already said “Buy American, Hire American” which points his limiting H-1B Visa programme through which companies import cheap labour into America. This will impact India’s IT industry but this was already a trend in the previous administration.
The China Factor
The incident of the seizure of an American underwater drone in the international waters of South China Sea by the Chinese Navy and America’s reaction to it is very clearly depicting Trump’s Anti- China factor.
Overall, an emerging trend is quite visible defining Trump’s administration.For India, the balance of outcomes may be positive rather than negative but it is early days yet.