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Hillary, Trump and where India stands?
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Dr Mohammed Badrul Alam | Date:16 Jun , 2016 1 Comment
Dr Mohammed Badrul Alam
is Professor, Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi.

With the long drawn primary election season winding down for the 2016 US Presidential race, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have emerged as presumptive presidential nominees from the Democratic and Republican parties respectively. Although domestic issues have by and large dominated the debate and discourse so far, early indications of both Hillary and Trump point to their respective foreign policy orientations including on issues that matter to India.

On defence engagement, both Hillary and Trump are likely to support enhanced technology cooperation, increased collaboration, and co-development between the United States and India. The Obama administration’s recognition of India as a Major Defence Partner (MDP) is likely to find resonance with both the candidates as India forges an enduring global partnership with the US in the 21st century.

While Hillary Clinton, based on her earlier track record as a US Senator and as Secretary of State, will welcome India’s introduction of  Visa-on-Arrival for US citizens and in advancing India’s membership in the US Global Entry Program, Trump might have a more nuanced view as he favours a cap on H1B visa for skilled professionals and would rather prefer a more composite policy on the broad issue of immigration that may not be to the exact liking of potential Indian immigrants and software professionals. Trump’s position is also a hard line approach on immigration in general as he has threatened to create a wall along the US border with Mexico for preventing illegal entry of Mexicans into US in search of jobs and opportunities.

Recognising India’s increasing clout in the regional and global scene and the country’s enhanced hard power and soft power capabilities, both Hillary and Trump are likely to support India’s strategic vision for promoting peace, prosperity, stability and security in the Asia Pacific region which includes providing India a greater say on matters related to Indian Ocean and maritime security for all the littoral countries. Because of strong antipathy toward China, Trump is likely to have a robust China policy which will test China’s resolve in maintaining its turf supremacy on the South China Sea. Hillary, on the other hand, is likely to go along with Modi government’s ‘Act East Policy’ along with calibrating US re-balancing of Asia so as to find common ground and synergy between the US and India.

On terrorism cooperation and counter terrorism measures, both Hillary and Trump are very likely to support and endorse India’s concerted effort to act decisively against entities such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Haqqani Network and call upon Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack and 2016 Pathankot attack to speedy justice. The Joint Working Group on counter terrorism will get a boost no matter who wins the race to the White house in November 2016.

As a follow up to the landmark Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation agreement between US and India, both Hillary and Trump are likely to support efforts at bringing civil nuclear liability and related administrative arrangements as well as to support US-built reactors for addressing India’s energy security concerns. Preparatory work done by Westinghouse Corporation constructing six AP 1000 reactors are likely to continue with support from the Government of India and US Export-Import Bank.

Both Hillary and Trump are likely to support the recent agreement concluded between Prime Minister Modi and President Obama for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) as well as to make forward movement on Wassenaar Agreement on export controls for Conventional arms and dual-use technologies and the Australian group for checking proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. Although China might try to block India’s entry into the NSG, India is likely to succeed in view of the changing geo-political realities and international environment that works to India’s favour.

On India becoming a permanent member of the expanded UN Security Council, both Hillary and Trump are likely to take a more cautious stand in order not to ruffle further feathers vis-a-vis China and in complexly marginalising Pakistan’s diplomatic manoeuvre in this regard. However, India might be supported for a non-veto expanded version of UN Security Council that will cater to the needs of the power equation of contemporary times.

Although Trump has made some rather uncharitable remarks about India’s Call Center workers and on outsourcing of jobs, he does recognise the rich talent pool of the Indian diaspora in each and every sector of American society. Hillary Clinton, on her part, has courted Indian Americans and has actively supported them by appointing them in key positions when she was the US Secretary of State under the first term of Obama administration. It is enlightening to note that in both the political campaigns of both Hillary and Trump, Indian Americans are playing pivotal roles for devising electoral strategies for their respective candidates.

Although the election is several months way, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in coming weeks and months are likely to sharpen their attacks on one another and in fine tuning their positions on all important issues of the day including on India. India, at the present time, is in an enviable position, as there is a bi-partisan consensus in the American political spectrum to engage and nourish the relationship with India for a win-win proposition.


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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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