The Donald Trump victory has meant some soul searching and introspection for India as it has for rest of the globe. What does this triumph hold for India? Attempting to answer this question scholar Tanvi Madan, in her article in says even what we know about Trump are only the ‘known unknowns’. “With Trump, however, would come a number of known unknowns and unknown unknowns- in terms of US engagement with the world in general and policy towards specific countries- that could affect India’s interests,” she says.

Tale of Two Leaders: Modi and Trump

Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged Trump’s victory with his tweets that read “Congratulations @realDonaldTrump on being elected as the 45th US President,” and “We look forward to working with you closely to take India-US bilateral ties to a new height. @realDonaldTrump.”

There have been comparisons between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Donald Trump, both pro-business leaders from the right wing who won elections that gained from a sentiment of anti-incumbency. While some have dismissed these similarities as too superficial.

But what is surely common between the two is the support of the affluent Indian diaspora to both Modi and Trump. Throughout his campaign, Trump has enjoyed eager support from a portion of Indian American business community. He spoke at a Bollywood style event organised by the Republican Hindu Coalition in New Jersey becoming the first ever presidential candidate to address Indian Americans. It is these Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) who are also ardent supporters of Narendra Modi and formed the financial backbone of his party, the BJP’s election campaign in India.

In fact, days within his victory Trump has already met Indian business partners where he praised PM Modi.

The Future of Outsourcing

Despite Trump’s supposed soft corner for India, there is some nervousness about his unfavourable stand on offshoring which he has referred to as ‘job theft.’ “We are living through the greatest jobs theft in the history of the world. There’s never been a country that’s lost jobs like we do, so stupidly, so easy to solve,” Trump said while on his campaign trail in Florida.

Outsourced jobs employ millions of Indians and the US accounts for 60% of India’s $82 billion software services exports. A key area that might affect Indians is the tightening of H1-B skilled worker visas that permit many Indians to work in the US. But given the practical implications, it is hard to tell if all the anti-outsourcing rhetoric will be followed through. Some analysts believe that since most of the jobs taken by Indians are those that there’s a dearth of qualified Americans for, there’s little to be afraid of.

Border Troubles

Under the Obama administration ties between the two countries were strengthened and India particularly found support in the defence sector. Among the key positives for India from Trump’s presidency is his expected support for India as it fights cross-border terrorism fuelled by Pakistan. There is much anticipation that Trump will assent to a US Congress bill that will designate Pakistan as a terror state.

India also ranks high in Trump's Indo-Asia Pacific policy according to Alexander Gray, a senior military advisor in the trump administration. "We (Trump Administration) would be looking to strengthen not just the cultural and economic aspect, but also on the defence side, there is so much common ground with India. At a time when India's foreign policy is changing because of China and Pakistan, because of Islamic terrorism, we need to be there to greet them with open arms. I think, the Trump Administration is ready to do that," he said.
As Madan points out in her piece, what the recent US election brings to the fore are long-term questions about the United States despite any president. These questions are about “globalisation, identity politics, America’s role in the world and the utility of allies and partners that will have implications for countries like India.” While we can guess, what answers might look like, only time will tell how far from the mark we are.

Elizabeth Raj | Blogger – Arsha Consultant

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