Monday, 25 May 2020

Trump’s Triumph signals shift in balance of power in South Asia 

Updated: December 1, 2016 12:37 pm

America was in turmoil. Hundreds of thousands all across the country had taken to streets shouting “Trump is not our President”, Trump is a Fascist” with placards showing him in Hitler’s uniform and Nazi symbol on his arms. All indications were that the November 8 Presidential Election had divided the country and bruised many.

The young, educated and the pro- status quoits went hysterical when the blue political pedigreed Hillary Clinton lost out to a rank outsider Donald Trump, unknown to Washington elite, a wealthy rake who even possibly never voted in any Presidential Election. But the President–elect Donald Trump remained unperturbed. In his victory speech he was calm and sober. The words were carefully chosen, gone were the aggressive, domineering and often abusive attacks. No  triumphant-ism, instead he praised Hillary and recounted her services to the country and appealed for unity for the effort to help America’s Comeback.

Trump, the Presidential Candidate, has been incarnated into a new personality as the President-Elect. The new persona slowly brought calm not only in America, but the rest of the world too heaved a sigh of relief. As suddenly shaken as his own country, world leaders too were a bit relieved as that  man who will head the most powerful country, had thrown the cloak of a controversial, buccaneer-like, tough businessman with a reputation of Don Juan and emerged as a thinking politician and eager to generate understanding and cooperation.

Donald Trump said he was firm on his agenda and not give up his rhetoric or toughness and assured the US had nothing to fear from his presidency. But what about the rest of the world, especially South Asia, Far East, that include India, Pakistan and China.

The geo-politics of the region will surely be impacted by the attitude of Trump towards each of the individual countries — Pakistan, India, China and one of the pivots among the above-mentioned countries, Russia.  The views of Trump towards these countries can be gleaned from his speeches during campaigning. Aggressive and brusque, Trump praised and criticised with equal vehemence and bluntness. He was violently against terrorism and those who breed, nurture and export terrorists. This naturally reflects badly on Pakistan. Hopefully, it will refrain from venturing into bloody misadventures like the one in Pathankot.

On TV he loudly said, “I love Pakistan.” And then he laughed. That laughter gave away his real impression about the country. No wonder Donald Trump’s surprise election as United States (US) President has Pakistanis wary that he may accelerate what they see as a shift in American policy to favour arch-foe India in the long rivalry between nuclear-armed neighbours, analysts said.

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Historical allies in the region, Islamabad and Washington have seen relations sour over US accusations that Pakistan shelters militants, a charge Pakistan denies. They hit new lows in May when a US drone killed the leader of the Afghan Taliban on Pakistani soil. At the same time, Pakistan’s ties with India have deteriorated this year, with India alleging Pakistan-based militants killed 19 of its soldiers in the Uri army base attack in  Kashmir.

Pakistanis suspect that Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric ─ he once proposed banning Muslims entering the United States ─ and business ties with India are signs that his administration could shift further toward New Delhi. So far Pakistan, because of its location that enables easy accessibility to Afghanistan, has been sure that the US will not abandon it. Even Barack Obama did not despite a complete tilt towards India reach a point of no return with Pakistan.

“America will not abandon Pakistan, but definitely, Trump will be a tougher President than Hillary Clinton for Pakistan,” Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based foreign policy analyst, was quoted as saying. It’s a toss-up between Trump’s objective not to leave Kabul — because of the nuclear-power Pakistan in the vicinity — and to not tolerate terrorism. However,  Nawaz Sharif may try to rein in Let and JeM, the likes of Hafeez Saeed and Azhar Masood, will not listen to any reason. One more terror strike anywhere that has any link to Pakistan will rouse Trump’s wrath and that could be devastating.

Trump has yet to lay out a detailed policy for South Asia, although he recently offered to mediate in the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. He also told Fox News in the summers he would favour keeping nearly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan “because it’s adjacent and right next to Pakistan which has nuclear weapons.” Recently, a US diplomat in Pakistan sought to assure the country that Trump’s election did not signal a drastic policy change.

India-US ties have flourished under President Barack Obama and Modi, who came to power in 2014, with the two countries striking key defence agreements this year. Modi’s government has also waged a campaign to isolate Pakistan diplomatically. Shaurya Doval, director of the India Foundation, a think-tank close to Modi’s government, called Trump’s election “a very positive development”, but added that India and the United States would have continued to grow closer under a Hillary Clinton presidency as well.

Throughout his campaigning, Trump often commented that India was doing well, thanked the three million Indians in the US for supporting him and praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s work when he took time out from planning the transition to his presidency in January to meet with his Indian business partners. Trump currently has five luxury projects in India. Modi said that he is looking forward to working with Trump and feels the new administration will be well inclined towards India. Trump has repeatedly referred to job losses and outsourcing to India.  Addressing his supporters in Florida during campaigning he said, “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.

“Goodrich Lighting Systems laid off 255 workers and moved their jobs to India,” Trump was cited as saying by PTI. “The Trump presidency could also take a tougher stance on China,” is the view of Lalit Mansingh, because for the US  China is a rival for both economic  and military powers.

India has prickly ties with China because of an unresolved border dispute, India’s burgeoning trade deficit with the neighbour and China’s support to its “all weather” friend Pakistan. India, on the other hand, sees a convergence of views with the US on China’s rather unsettling rise in the region. The other complication is that Trump has major interests in six companies in China. But one in his team said he would never compromise nation’s interests for his own.

Trump will also have to decide whether to maintain the number of US troops in Afghanistan or change the scope of the mission, 15 years after a US-led campaign toppled the Taliban government. The United States has spent some $115 billion in aid for Afghanistan since 2002, but the country is still caught in conflict, with a third of the country out of government control and thousands of Afghan civilians, soldiers and police dying every year.

Afghan officials have voiced concern that the conflict is being forgotten in Washington, and warned privately that the West will pay a huge price if that continues. “The people of Afghanistan are tired of war. We want (Trump) to invest heavily in bringing peace to war-torn Afghanistan and stabilise our region,” said Umer Daudzai, former Afghan minister of interior.

Obama’s original aim of pulling out of Afghanistan entirely has been put on hold in the face of mounting gains by Taliban militants, with US air power and special forces still regularly involved in combat. Recently two US Green Berets were killed near the northern city of Kunduz. Although Afghan security forces have been fighting largely alone since the end of the main Nato-led combat mission in 2014, their performance has been patchy and they continue to rely heavily on US air power. The Taliban urged Trump to withdraw all US troops.

“They should not cause damage to their economy and their military in this failed war,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said of the American government in a statement.

Trump’s decision will be awaited by India, which has very good relations with the present regime in Kabul and does not want it to be run over by Islamabad Generals or the Taliban. Hopefully, Trump  will take India’s views as well.  Most of what Trump has said about India, and about its neighbours, suggests that he would lift the Indo-US relationship out of any stalemate.


A comparison


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Donald Trump has just become President of the US while India’s Narendra Modi has completed half of his five year term. Both are expected to bond together on many issues. In fact it is believed  Trumps election will have an impact on the balance of power in South Asia and tilt will be in favour of India because so much is common between the two, that’s its uncanny.  Although their personalities and backgrounds are radically different.

Modi was a chaiwallah, Trump was an entrepreneur, Modi talks softly and gets lyrical occasionally, is particular in learning every detail of the place and people he is to address. When he gets emotional like in Goa recently while asking for 50 days in which he promised to remove all the difficulties due to demonetisation he is able to move the people.

On the otherhand Trump is blunt, bellicose, brutally candid and can passionately praise or criticise. He is known to be fond of women, food and kept in contact with the likes of Vladimir Putin even before he even thought of contesting for the US Presidency.

He knows about most countries because of his real estate and other businesses. In contrast Modi has very simple habits, likes simple food, has no interest in women and he knew no personality like Putin.

But there are similarities in their rise and in their campaigning for the office of the prime minister of India and the White House.

Both had a message

Unlike their rivals, both Narendra Modi in 2014 and Donald Trump in 2016 had a message to deliver and an agenda to unravel to the voters. Modi talked of development and making India great, Trump talked of America’s come back.  Both Modi and Trump dished out what mattered to the voters: jobs for instance.

Both hated status quo and became symbols of ‘change’

That’s what the voters adored about them. Hillary looked to be no more than the continuation of the Barack Obama legacy which left large sections craving for more. Trump and Modi vowed to shake up the status quo, promising a change and a better tomorrow, which was what voters in both countries wanted.

They vehemently spoke against corruption

During the 2014 poll campaign, one of Narendra Modi’s main chants was the removal of corruption, which he described as a termite that was eating away the Indian system. He said the BJP “is for a mission and the Congress is for a commission”. Modi promised to reduce corruption. This seemed to make sense to many voters. Now they know they weren’t wrong.

And for Trump, he thundered at a rally: “Real change also means draining the swamp of corruption in Washington… If we want to make America great again, we must clean up this corruption.” Trump and Modi are seen to be men with a large broom to tidy up things.

Both were “outsiders”

A billionaire property tycoon Trump does not know about the Washington elite. Trump has no knowledge of the system, the usual hangers’ on in a capital, wheeler-dealers and Capitol’s conventions. He thus remains an outsider to the power bloc, lobbies which carry a lot of weight and the media set specialising in Capitol politicians.

Washington Post writer EJ Dionne Jr said: “…Insiderism is unpopular this year. But, because of who Trump really is, his phoney outsider-ism is a far bigger threat to our country. Voters thought he was an “anti-establishment rebel”.

Modi too is an outsider, at least to Lutyen’s Delhi. In an interview to Network18 Group Editor Rahul Joshi, Modi said: “In Delhi’s power corridors, there’s an active group of people, which is dedicated to only a few. It could be because of their own reasons or personal gains…” The media and left liberals still consider Modi an outsider, unworthy to lead India.

Media hates both

The media didn’t get along with both Trump and Modi in their respective countries. Forget the “liberals” who populate the American media, the press there has a lot against the President-elect: Xenophobia, misogyny, gropings, cuss words, tax evasion, financial wrongdoing in his real-estate business. But the Indian media hadn’t proven any allegations against Modi, at least as yet.


One more factor is advantageous to India. Its both hostile countries China and Pakistan have been using the US as a cash cow for decades: China by running a huge trade surplus ($366 billion in 2015); Pakistan by playing a double game, soaking up US aid (more than $30 billion since 2002), while pretending to fight radical Islam.

All signs indicate that Trump would cut down on the flow of cash to both countries. This could make life difficult for Pakistan. But the pulls and tugs could start a trade war between the US and China, particularly if Trump imposes 45 per cent tariff on imports from China. This will be detrimental to both. Potentially, more economic pain for the same blue-collar Americans who constitute Trump’s fervent base. Prices on items ranging from clothing to appliances could rise, and U.S. farming and factory jobs that rely on global trade could be threatened.

There’s also the possibility that a deal-maker like Trump is just the sort of partner China likes working with. And Trump has pledged to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade deal that President Barack Obama promised “would give us a leg up on” China. While the TPP goes into deep freeze, China continues to pursue its own Asia-wide trade.

Telephone call between incoming US leader and Chinese President suggests willingness to work together after campaign rhetoric President Xi Jinping and Trump spoke on the phone and “established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another,” according to a short statement from Trump’s transition team.

“President-elect Trump stated that he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward,” it added. According to state media, Xi also stressed the importance of cooperation in “lots of things,” while Trump reportedly said that he was on “the same side” as Xi in Sino-US relations.

“China is a great and important country, and China’s development is remarkable,” Trump is quoted as saying. “The US and China can achieve mutual benefits and win-win results. I would love to work with you to enhance the cooperation between US and China. I’m sure the Sino-US relations will achieve better development.” But after reports of such bonhomie, confusion set in when a translation error in Chinese media suggested the two had spoken, contradicting Trump, who said that he hadn’t yet talked to Xi.


TRUMP CARDS OF TRUMP


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Donald Trump entered in the fray of 2017 USA Presidential Election just as a beginner, who never had any significant experience or political position. The person, who won  the race to occupy White House as 41st President of America, was  considered a weak candidate even in his own Republican Party, whereas his main opponent, the candidate of Democratic Party Hillary Clinton was a clever politician and also had an advantage of being the wife of  Bill Clinton, two-time President of America.

She also had the support of the impotent Press houses. In the spite of most of the things in her favour, her defeat  has not come as a surprise to many. Some people including me declared Trump’s victory much before elections.  Our predictions were based on certain realities, whereas some  journalists like Barkha Dutt were was making a joke of his candidature. My tweet of 27th September “Trumps Victory is an outgone conclusion” was not well taken by these reporters.

Trump started his campaign touching the two sensitive issues, which remain his Trump cards till the end and fell heavily on Hillary’s moves. Trump knew that the fear in Americans after the 9/11 terrorist attact has not yet gone out of their mind. Taking advantage of that he exposed President Barack Obama’s lethargy to contain terrorism and

that Hillary would also follow in his footsteps.

Though he was not found competent enough to face Hillary on various counts on the stage debate, Press, therfore, called him a weak candidate  that he is immature and he lost Muslim and NRI voters and also a chunk of voters of  secular feelings. Still he succeeded to reach to the neck and neck fight with Hillary by the day of voting .

I wrote in my tweet about six months ago of the election “Trump speaks his heart” and this too would add to his strength. Sometimes when you speak your heart without manoeuvring your thoughts people consider you innocent, truthful and straight person.

His first sixer was well hit when Trump  said that he won’t allow multinational houses unless the priority is given to unemployed Americans. And this lured the youths. His loud speaking against terrorism condemning the Muslim community without the least fear of losing Muslims votes emerged as his second strength. Since the terrorism became the global worry of one and all, the people took it as him firm commitment for the safety and security of the country without being bothered for the votes. This gave way to polarisation of non-Muslims votes.

The fence sitters who considered Hillary an impressive  orator, a better politician also started taking him as a serious candidate.

Trump found deficult to face Hillary on shows and more so to contest the Obama’s well-articulated dramatic speeches. But Trump’s one stroke that he would bring back the old glory of America compelled the voters to think about the Obama’s failure in destroying terrorism which dented American’s prestige. This worked well  just like the Narendra  Modi dialogue of a glorified India.

The Russian President Putin denying to accept any power of America on Syria issue and sidelining Obama was considered a failure of the policy of Democratic Party. This was what Trump  meant to bring back the glory.

Some similarities with Indian elections were also noted such as threatening of sending jail to opponent, exposing past of the candidate including that of families and even exposing sexual behaviour of the persons. As, in India, some political parties try to polarise Muslims  votes in the name of saffronisation, the same game was played by Trump to polarise non-Muslims  votes by the fear of terrorism created only by the Muslims. This worked well finally.

Trump succeeded to carry the message that all terrorists are Muslims and not of any other religion. Only for this reason  the migrants ignored the Trump’s call of repatriation considering the  larger interest of humanity.

The Indians too gradually shifted towards him for his open announcement of Islamic terrorism and got prepared for even repatriation. Some journalists in India being on the side of Hillary wrote against Trump exposing his past life and behaviour with women. Barkha Dutt took the lead describing him as a gynoecium after her visit to Hillary but nothing worked on Indians. Trump’s victory shattered  her dreams of White House hospitality at least for the four years.

Being a terrorist country, Pakistan is our enemy and Trump is an enemy of terrorists, harboured by Pakistan therefore, Trump has to be our natural friend  by an old saying enemy’s enemy is a friend.

Dr. Vijay Khaira       


Trump could be telling the truth. The abrasive candidate’s campaign trail rhetoric left little room for diplomacy. “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country,” Trump said to supporters. “It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world.”

In terms of foreign policy, Trump has largely shied away from giving his opinion on the South China Sea issue — where the Asian giant has been building on existing reefs to advance territorial ambitions in the region. Some analysts say that the incoming leader’s inward focus might present an opportunity to consolidate these gains.

The report that no understanding has been struck between Trump and XI is good news for India.  But India has much to gain if Trump and Putin strike an understanding. This seems to be in the offing. Putin congratulated Trump on “historic” win. Trump was criticized during the campaign for ties to Kremlin. The two leaders discussed issues including shared threats, strategic economic issues and the historical US-Russia relationship.

Author of “The Man With No Face,” a biography of Putin, drew parallels between the Russian leader and Trump in a piece for the New York Review of Books on “rules for surviving in an autocracy.”

Putin prefers isolationists, which Trump is. During the campaign, Trump was criticized for saying that Putin “is not going into Ukraine,” two years after the invasion of Crimea. He later claimed that he meant as President he would not allow further incursions. The President-elect also made a habit of questioning NATO’s relevance, a departure from over 60 years of bipartisan foreign policy. Putin has been a long time critic of the alliance’s expansion into eastern Europe. A Russian spokesperson said the two leaders, because what we have currently is a very lousy relationship, will try to”normalise US-Russia ties”.

Putin wished Trump “success in implementing the election programme”.  Trump, who had praised Mr Putin in the election campaign, said he wanted an “enduring relationship” ‘

The Kremlin revealed Mr Trump and Mr Putin had discussed Syria and agreed that current Russian-US relations were “extremely unsatisfactory”. Indian diplomats welcome the signs of warming up between Trump and Putin, for it will lessen his dependence on China. And that could lead to a Trump, Putin and Modi axis.Who knows! Advent of Trump in the White House surely signals a shift in the balance of power in South Asia. And as things stand it may be a power shift to India.

 by Vijay Dutt

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