Indo-US ties have been impacted by Donald Trump’s talk on trade yet both nations need each other
US President Donald Trump is not an internationalist. Given half a chance, he would withdraw from the rest of the world, unless there was a nice golf course around. As he begins his re-election campaign, Trump is appealing to nativist American voters and plans to tell them that his tough stance on trade has led to more jobs being created at home. While the primary target of his trade ire has been China, Trump has been an equal opportunity trade war firestarter. He has quarrelled with the European Union and Japan as well as Canada and Mexico. In his zeal for ‘fair’ trade, he has damaged American military interests and his fascination with towers that bear his name has made him soft on nations he shouldn’t privilege over others.
Needless to say, India has also been targeted by the Trump Administration for “unfair” trade practices. Some could argue that India is a blameless collateral victim in Trump’s trade war-mongering, but that would require a suspension of belief. The fact is that India still has an extremely protectionist attitude towards its own industries and Trump has a point. In fact, a sensible decision with Trump would have been to have given him a few victories early on, a dramatic reduction on import duties for high-powered motorcycles and cars, as he initially railed against these. May be the boffins at Udyog Bhawan, like their counterparts in Beijing and Brussels, didn’t take Trump seriously and thought his pronouncements were just politicking and that the free trade, capitalist instincts of the Republican party would kick in ultimately. However, Trump’s victory in 2016 was a clear indication of the rise of nativist, nationalistic forces across the world and his latest tweets about US involvement in the Arabian peninsula are a sign that he would happily withdraw the US protection that has underpinned the global order since World War II. Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is visiting India with not just a wish list of trade demands but also areas to expand India-US ties into. However, Pompeo should also assuage Indian authorities. While there should be scope for negotiation on some aspects, it is not India’s job to always keep Trump and his cohorts happy. The US threat to reduce H-1B visa quotas for Indians is just a sign of the lengths the US will go to. However, it would be prudent for India to realise that Trump’s main battle is with China and it is in the US’ best interests to keep India onside. Yes, India should make some concessions on trade and give Trump a victory or two, better still invite him and give him a medal or three and take him to a Bollywood shoot and a round at the Delhi Golf Club. Traditional diplomacy is out of the window now, the Trump era of engagement is very different.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer