How does America’s Elections Results Impact India?
While many in India, like people around the world, are interested in the US elections just to see who will win between Donald Trump and Joseph Biden, let us take a look at what the results could mean for US ties with India.
Given the love fests of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas, in which Trump participated in September of 2019, and Trump’s ‘Namaste Trump’ event hosted by Modi in India in February of this year, it might be assumed that the future for US-India relations is a splendid one. This would be an incorrect assumption.
Both of these events were more symbolic than substantive. Trump’s participation in them undoubtedly helped to persuade some — perhaps many — Indian American Modi supporters who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to cast their ballots for Trump in 2020. Trump’s campaign team took steps to ensure this by holding an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in which a group of prominent Indian Americans announced their plans to work for his re-election and to mobilize Indian Americans on his behalf.
To understand the future potential of India’s relations with the US. with Trump as president, however, it is necessary to look beyond these political moves and to examine the present state of those relations and Trump’s personal style.
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Relationship Between America and India so far
The relationship was relatively good for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. In fact, near the end of 2018, Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was quoted in the media saying: “This has been a landmark year for US-India ties as we build out stronger relationships across the board.”
Later in 2019, the relations went off the track in the first half of the year after the US and India got into a tit-for-tat tariff war after the US terminated India’s Generalized System of Preferences which allowed India to send certain goods to the US duty-free. There have been continuing efforts to structure a “modest” trade deal since then. It was thought there might be some type of deal done in September of 2019 while Modi was in the US by year’s end, and then during Trump’s India visit. But, as of today, there is still no deal.
This inability to get any meaningful trade agreement in place speaks volumes about India’s potential future relations with India with Trump as president. So, too does Trump’s style.
Trump’s campaign slogans this time around are “Keep America Great” and “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” Trump is not a policy wonk and most of his effort will go toward “America First”. This involves making the US more isolated by withdrawing from international agreements, restructuring trade agreements, emphasizing building walls to stop immigrants at the border, using tariffs to block trade with countries who are taking away American jobs and confronting businesses who are allegedly stealing American trade secrets.
This perspective suggests what India can expect for its relations with the US if it has to deal with Trump for a second term as president. The relations will stay functional at best. As we said before, that’s because the words partnership, cooperation and collaboration are not in Trump’s vocabulary. Nationalism, isolationism and protectionism are. Joe Biden stands in stark contrast to President Trump both professionally and personally. Biden is a strategic thinker and doer with a solid eight-year track record of leadership experience as Vice-President in forging alliances that have made a difference around the world and he has also been a long-standing friend of India.
The results of this upcoming election in the US matter greatly for the future of the United States. They matter greatly for the future of India-US relations as well. Time and the American electorate will tell what that future will be.
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