Donald Trump has announced his intention to seek a second term as President of the United States. His performance, thus far, has been extremely controversial and he has succeeded in alienating large sections of the American people. Polls (which made incorrect forecasts in the case of Hillary Clinton) indicate that a carefully selected Democratic candidate would defeat Trump if the elections were held today.
Although Trump has failed to deliver on most of his election promises, he has managed to bring down unemployment rates and give a boost to traditional American industry by pursuing the path of dismantling the country’s linkages with the global economy. He believes the US can survive on its own till such time other nations are forced to accept more ‘just’ trade pacts. Thus far, according to him, multilateral and bilateral agreements always had the US subsidising others in one way or another. These sentiments have a lot of support among ordinary Americans who have suffered the consequences of the shift of manufacturing industries to countries like China, or the tariff barriers for their products, particularly those based on the farming sector. Socially, too, he has been a divisive President, supporting the growing feeling of ‘victimisation’ among white people owing to ‘socialist’ and ‘liberal’ politics of race. The failure of the politically correct to recognise this sentiment only makes Trump stronger.
Indians as an ethnic minority in the US had shown strong support for Trump in the last election. They carry influence larger than their numbers and will need to calculate whether Trump’s term has been beneficial to them. Of particular concern have been the visa policies and approach towards immigration. They will also be looking at cues from India.
As a nation, India, too, needs to decide on whether Trump has been a good friend or an eccentric decision maker unaware of the larger issues. He has been tough on Pakistan, but seemingly willing to surrender to the Taliban in Afghanistan. He has been picking on Iran at the instigation of Israel and Saudi Arabia. India has major stakes in Afghanistan and Iran, and stands to lose should these countries suffer setbacks. The asymmetry of Talibani fundamentalism can be countered only by the high-tech capability of the US. Any involvement on the security front in Afghanistan would prove too expensive for India.
India’s energy security would also be held to ransom if its efforts to diversify suffer a setback because of Trump’s ‘us or them’ politics. Trump claims to be countering China on the global stage, but his trade disruption could force India to compromise with that country. India will have to weigh this aspect against the Democrats’ historically patronising attitude that has been of little substantial advantage. There is still time to go before the next election and the picture should become clearer by then on these issues.