India and Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s campaign speeches were not kind to some religious and ethnic denominations, but that, by and large, did not include Indians. Many parts of the world are apprehensive of what a Trump presidency means for them — but that need not include India. His campaign speeches were peppered with praise for India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 3.2 million-strong Indian diaspora. The Prime Minister recently observed that Trump was inclined to be friendly towards India. He could have added that India perhaps had more to fear from a Hillary Clinton win. This gives India a springboard to reach out to the president-elect and establish a rapport with his team, apprising them of areas of opportunities and concern.

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Apart from Iran, He considers Pakistan to be the world’s most dangerous country, suggests that he is not in favour of lending an unconditional line of support to Pakistan in order to maintain stability in Afghanistan. If #Trump pursues his intent of improving ties with Russia and containing China’s rise, it cannot do India any harm. As an influential section of the #US political establishment tends to do, In fact, Trump is likely to view India independently as a region of opportunity rather than hyphenate it with Pakistan. India’s strategic and defence-related engagements with the US are unlikely to suffer in this scenario.

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The jobs crisis in the US is more on account of the export of manufacturing jobs to China; the redundant blue collar workforce in the US cannot readily be adjusted into the IT sector. As his predecessors did, that substituting Indian skills in software with US labour is easier said than done, While imposing high costs on Indian hirings, Trump’s team would perhaps be quick to realise. The US receives about two lakh H1-B applications from all over the world, India included. Trump has blown hot and cold on H1-B work visas where India corners over 70 per cent, or 65,000, of all such visas issued annually. It is in trade in services that India is ill at ease. The same holds true for L1 work visas issued for high-end science and technology operations, where India accounts for 30 per cent of such visas issued.

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Since it faces the prospect of losing market access to Asia-Pacific countries that are part of the TPP, Trump’s opposition to trade pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership for their propensity to export jobs from the US, comes as good news to India. Another huge unknown is Trump’s position on IPRs. India should engage the new administration on the nuances of IPR and its effort to balance public concerns and commercial interests within the WTO framework. In all, the businessman in Trump is likely to buy into India, provided India makes the right pitch. It remains to be seen whether the new administration slaps a levy on firms operating overseas. This could positively influence India’s bargaining position at the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.