Modi & Trump and the future of India-US relations

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President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi congratulated Donald Trump, President-elect of the United States of America. Prime Minister Modi was among world leaders who spoke to  Trump, hours after he scored his surprising win.

“PM conveyed his best wishes & the two leaders looked forward to working closely to take the India-U.S. strategic partnership to a new height,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup , describing the phone conversation between the leaders on Wednesday night.

According to Shalabh Kumar, an Indian American donor to the Trump campaign,  Modi and  Trump would meet soon, “perhaps in the first 100 days.”

President Mukherjee took to microblogging site twitter to congratulate  Trump, saying, “congratulations @realDonaldTrump [ Trump’s twitter handle], on your election as the 45th President of the United States of America.”

In a statement released later, the President said  Trump’s “victory is a celebration of the spirit of individual heroism that has always defined the American national identity. It is also a celebration of people’s power that nurtures democracies like India and the U.S.”

Sonia Gandhi, wishing  Trump said that she hoped that he would have a great tenure at the Oval office and that the India-U.S. relationship would be strengthened during the course of his presidency. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi too sent a congratulatory message to  Trump.

The BJP also welcomed  Trump’s victory. Party general secretary Ram Madhav, tweeted that “with both the House [of Representatives] and Senate solidly behind him packed with Republicans,  Trump will have a field day for the next four years in U.S. politics.”

In a related development, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity could be gauged from the fact that even President-elect Donald Trump had appreciated his policies during campaigning.

“During US presidential election Donald Trump had said that he would work on policies of Modi. Now he has become the President. We should feel proud,” Rajnath said while addressing a rally at Town Poly-technic ground before flagging off the fourth Parivartan Yatra of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) here on Wednesday.

“Modi has not only ensured that India becomes the fastest growing economy by eradicating corruption, but also gains popularity globally through his foreign policies. This is the reason why politicians like Trump eulogised Modi’s image and policies to boost his prospects in US presidential election and won,” Rajnath added.

Now the question is what direction India-US relations will take under Trump. According to an adviser to Donald Trump, the U.S. president-elect will be “best friends” with the Indian Prime Minister. Shalabh Kumar, an Indian businessman, is Trump’s point person for outreach to Indian-American voters. “They will be best friends – not only the two nations will be best friends, but these two guys will be best friends. Donald Trump knows about Modi through me. He is very keen to learn about Modi,” Kumar said in an interview.

When asked if Trump’s position on trade affect India, he said: “First of all, he’s not opposed to free trade at all – he is a free trade, free enterprise person. But he will want a fair trade deal. My belief is that trade with India is going to increase when you have a fair trade deal. Business that supports him is innovative and creative in expanding trade with India. I expect trade to double to $250 billion within one to two years.”

On the issue of South Asian security in the context of India’s rivalry with Pakistan, Kumar said: “He calls out the camel in the room when nobody else does. He already talks about cross-border terrorism — he is the first president to do so, essentially acknowledging that Pakistan is a perpetrator of terrorism. What I expect from him is a full expression of support for the surgical strikes that Modi ordered. The war against radical Islam is going to be properly prosecuted. He is going to find great partnership with India in that.”

In his campaign, Trump praised Modi and India’s economic growth
In his campaign, Trump praised Modi and India’s economic growth

Kumar said Trump’s priorities as president include:

  • Cutting business taxes from 35 percent to 15 percent
  • Repatriating offshore capital for a small fee
  • Imposing a tax or duty on companies that shut down a factory, take it outside the country and then import the products
  • Reducing regulations
  • Getting rid of Obama executive orders