Opinion: Trump shares a cordial relationship with Modi but leaves the world confused

Written By: Chintamani Mahapatra
New Delhi, Delhi, India Updated: Feb 12, 2018, 11:56 AM(IST)

The chemistry between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi has been quite positive Photograph:( Zee News Network )

President Donald Trump has completed one year in office. When he entered the Oval Office of the White House in the US capital on 20 January 2017, a large number of Americans within the US and a vast number of countries in the world did not expect business as usual. 


Many Americans were concerned that if Trump would implement all of his campaign promises, the country would face a political divide that would be difficult to heal for years. The Hispanics, African-Americans, Americans of Muslim faith, immigrants, temporary workers and poor white workers were particularly worried about a White House under the Trump Administration.


Uncertainty engulfed the world about the probable US approach to issues of peace, security and development. Both American allies and adversaries faced difficulty in communicating with the new US President. It was because Donald Trump, the presidential candidate, had hardly any positive message for the allies and the perceived US adversaries knew that a Trump Administration would more likely escalate the conflict with them than seek resolution of differences.


One year after Trump became President, the United States remains socially and politically divided from within. An intense cold war is ravaging on between Trump and the mainstream media. The minorities, immigrants and the poor appear disappointed over Trumpean policies. Many believe that President Trump suffers from personality problem, though the President declares himself to be a “stable genius.” 


In foreign affairs, there is still no clarity over his policy approaches and strategies. Analysts have no clue about the direction of US foreign policy and international engagements. Critics in the US and abroad have kept bombarding the Trump Administration for its frequent shift in policy statements and ambiguous policies over North Korea, China, Iran, NATO, NAFTA etc.  


Amidst all these complexities and uncertainties, Trump's followers and admirers have a different take. He is regarded as a leader who has delivered what he promised. He promised to build a wall along the US-Mexican border and seems determined to do so. The US Congress has also authorised a few billion dollars for this purpose. 


Secondly, he was a critic of the Iran nuclear deal, calling it a “bad deal”. He has stuck to his position and not extended his support to it; and, in fact, has sought to isolate the Iranian regime further. 


Third, he was dead opposed to the way his predecessors handled the North Korean nuclear programme. He took a very hostile and aggressive stance on the “little rocket man” of Pyongyang, threatening to demonstrate “fire and fury” against North Korea and, perhaps, take some credit for Pyongyang’s decision to send the athletes to join the Olympics along with South Korean counterparts. 


Fourth, he takes credit for arm-twisting military allies in the Atlantic and the Pacific to pay more for the common defense. He also spoke of his secret plan to eliminate the ISIS during the election campaign and now has been credited for the steady demise of ISIS influence in the Middle East. 


He promised to back Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and did so in the face of massive international opposition. Seventh, he criticised Obama for declaring withdrawal deadlines for US military from Afghanistan and, thus, empowering Taliban. Once in office, he reversed that policy, increased the troop's presence and showed determination to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. 


In the domestic arena, Trump Administration takes credit for the improvement in the employment situation, economic growth and for ensuring the passage of the massive tax reform legislation in about 30 years. His tightening of the immigration policy has brought cheers to a section of the American citizens who voted for him.


While Trump will remain a controversial figure in the US and elsewhere in the world, his approach towards India has been comparatively quite positive. First, there is no possibility of Trump backing the creation of a G2 world with China. Second, Trump’s pressure on Pakistan through aid cutoff may have some positive impact in the region. Third, the chemistry between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi has been quite positive. Fourth, the National Security Strategy Report issued by the Trump Administration has elevated India’s position as a great global power and has given the glimpse of its aspiration to deepen strategic and defense partnership with India for maintenance of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. The strategic concept of Indo-Pacific replaces “Asia-Pacific” and it is very much in Indian interest. The decision of the Trump White House not to push for a revision of H1B visa rules has augured well for the positive trajectory of Indo-US bilateral relations in coming years.


However, both Prime Minister Modi and President Trump give priority of place to economic growth as an important dimension of national security and, thus, Indo-US differences over economic issues are bound to remain and create periodic irritation in bilateral ties.


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)  


Chintamani Mahapatra

Chintamani Mahapatra is the Rector of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He specialises on US foreign and National Security Policy.
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