India, PM Narendra Modi should be wary of dealing with Donald Trump

Members of Hindu Sena, a right-wing Hindu group, place a garland on an poster of U.S President-elect Donald Trump ahead of his inauguration, in New Delhi, January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton/Files

NEW YORK: President Donald Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida, where Trump hailed the ‘great progress” made between the two countries, on Friday, without going into detail, is in stark contrast with reports of an executive order to be passed soon by Trump on dumping of cheap steel in the US, which would adversely affect China.

India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi can take a lot of pointers from Jinping’s interaction with Trump.

For Trump, trade issues trumps all. India with its huge import-export imbalance with the US, need to be wary in dealings with Trump. One thing is amply clear: what Trump says to one’s face, and behaves even in public, like his lack of response to shake hands with Angela Merkel, is not what the diplomatic and trade outcome may ultimately be.

India need to stop their whining, complaining and grouse over the H-1B visa reforms. In the long run, the reforms to legal immigration in the US mean little to India, financially.

Regardless of whether computer programmers from India are no longer eligible for an H-1B visa, or the minimum salary of an H-1B visa worker goes up from $60,000 to $100,000 plus, India can be assured of one thing: most of the 85,000 work visas would still be ensnared by Indian nationals, remittances would continue. Indian IT outsourcing companies like Infosys, TCS and Mahindra are already laying out plans to hire locally.

Brain drain is another issue altogether, though, for India. It’s one thing to lose a computer programmer, and quite another to lose by the thousands the brightest talent to the US, see entrepreneurs bloom elsewhere.

If Modi makes it an issue to confront Trump with the H-1B visa controversy, it may become a bit like what is transpiring between Trump and Jinping. He may promise his support for Indians and H-1B visa workers (even call them ‘great’), but down the road may lend his whole-hearted support for the American worker, prompt H-1B visa reform vigorously.

It would be a diplomatic defeat for India. A debacle for Indian diplomats and Modi. A certain blow to Indo-US relations.

Also, as China takes a more strong and aggressive posture against India, and seems closer to try wrest Arunachal Pradesh by military force, India face the uncomfortable truth of a heavy defeat in battle and inadequate battle preparedness in the tough terrain of the state. Their biggest weapon against China, more than their own combat force, would be to appeal to Trump and the US’ disdain for China.

Trump’s swift change in stance on Syria, going to war, and escalating diplomatic run-in with Russia, suggests Trump is not one to hunker down when it comes to what is expected of America and exerting himself as the leader of the free world. He’s quite likely to see eye-to-eye with India on the Arunachal Pradesh issue.

While China has not taken any sides on the issue, it’s perhaps important India express their criticism loud and clear of the chemical weapons attack in Syria, support the US in sidelining the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad. India should support the US initiative to probe who conducted those dastardly attacks. It’s the right thing to do.

India should also denounce China on the world stage for not doing enough in North Korea, and their outrageous claims in Arunachal Pradesh. While China’s voice and their contempt for India allowing Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh has made headlines around the world, India’s response has been tepid, to say the least.

China is also trying hard to make India the outsider with their overt support to Pakistan, their $55 billion investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

While there was great momentum in the US to confront Pakistan on terrorism-related issues, with the ongoing war in Syria, US may be wary of confronting an ally like Pakistan.

India should be wary of continued support of Pakistan by the US, and financial support in the so-called war on terror.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)



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