The Big Picture – South Asia & Trump- What Sharif Claims & US Response Indicate?

  • December 8, 2016
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The Big Picture- RSTV
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South Asia & Trump- What Sharif Claims & US Response Indicate?


TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.


The shock from November 8th US Presidential election victory is wearing off but Trump’s policies will occupy much of the world as he begins to lay out his governing agenda. Trump’s victory has amplified uncertainty across Asia- from China to Japan and smaller nations of South East Asia. The region’s leaders want to know if Trump could turn his campaign promises which have the potential to shake up alliances and bend the geopolitical map. For example, recently Pakistan’s PM has added a new dimension saying that Donald Trump showered praises on him and on Pakistan during their telephonic conversation. Thus, it is important to understand what Donald Trump means for Asia.

Pakistan and Trump

It is amateur on part of Pakistan PM in putting out segment of conversation within quotes. This is something that is not done and is not part of diplomatic practices. It embarrasses the interlocutor and in this case White House team has been embarrassed as they have put out their own version which is sober where they do confirm that Trump had indicated that his administration would want to have a strong relationship with Pakistan. But the White House Trump team has indicated that Pakistan PM may have gone too far to indicate that Trump might intervene in India Pakistan issue.

The other issue is that as far as Trump the campaigner is concerned and the Trump the president elect is there, Trump the president as he evolves may be quite different. He may be a little unconventional but not too far away from the basic principles which the American system has adopted for Asia. For instance, Trump may adopt twin approach where China is accommodated without losing American pre-eminence. What Trump said during campaigning or now should not be considered as a guide to future policy under the Trump administration.

Trump and Asia, will they gel?

Trump is in favour of taking up isolationist approach and does not wishes to not have alliances. Hence, there are chances that TPP might go post January 2017. But alliances have been force multipliers for American foreign policies where South Korea and Japan matter a lot to keep a check on China. But Trump has said that he is not interested in looking after defence of japan and South Korea. However, the policies are not made by the President alone. Though there may be disruptions to some extent but the policies are made by several institutions. Concludingly, not much is known about Trump’s foreign policy so his approach has been matter of debate. But there should be caution in drawing conclusion about Trump policies.

There are two critical aspect of Trump’s Asia policy- Strategic and economic.

American economy cannot withdraw from Asia unless they are ready for hurting themselves seriously. In terms of strategic, much would be decided by what would be the emerging USA-China equation. Many critical analysts have said that Trump team is still uncertain as to how to deal with china. Hence, any conclusion is not possible. But if he withdraws the rebalance as structure of policy and strategy or redefines defence and security relationship with Korea and Japan, even that will have implications. Trump has been given the American economic mandate by his constituency. He needs to get some degree of manufacturing back and reinvigorate American economy. If he doesn’t, the mandate will soon start withering away.

Some element of redefinition has started with Obama, as he clearly gave larger defence role to Japan. America is conscious that it cannot deal with China on its own and it needs its allies with it. One of the cornerstone is to strengthen India, to let japan play larger defence role, and Australia is also getting distant from China. It is not known to what extent they would be radically altered but if the structure remains same and cosmetic changes brought about to accommodate what Trump promises were, there should be careful wait.

Why are western powers weak towards Pakistan?

Time and again western powers have shown softness against Pakistan. This is because the way they have seen at it since it was created where it has been a rentier state. First it rented out to USA and then to china. Hence, this is what decides world’s policy towards Pakistan. Also, Trump will not dump Pakistan as it would be unreasonable considering it is a nuclear state and USA will not let it fail. So engagement will continue. If the agenda against terrorism has to be pushed, then also it has to engage with Pakistan as it has become nursery of terrorism. Hence, the recent announcement of Pakistan PM with Trump is kind of an overhyped conversation and there is nothing critical in it. Such statements are just to tell the world, particularly to India, that it is not isolated and Trump is on their side.

But in larger Asian framework, what Trump will do is yet to be known. But signs are visible and unleashing the volatility and uncertainty about the policies of USA are there till they become clearer and tangible from January 2017.

India and USA- future?

Defence is one area which will fructify as it is one area where Trump will not do any changes. USA is moving forward in DTTI- defence technology and trade partnership, helping in aircraft carrier project of 65000 tons, helping in follow up of current aircraft carrier of 45000 tons, prospect of gas turbine tech coming to naval warships where 47 are under construction etc. So India has a possibility of improved relation with USA.

USA-India relation will continue on positive note as it has become a bipartisan relationship overtime. India did well under Bush and subsequently under Obama administration. So, India’s position would not change much vis-a-vis USA. Where it will be most affected is in economic sphere as Trump has talked of India taking away US jobs. So if US companies are unable to outsource to India or Indian experts are not able to go to USA, it will affect India’s interest. Additionally, WTO altercations between India and USA are also ongoing with solar energy issue, IPR, domestic content issue.

Ashton Carter’s visit, the congress discussing and approving the National Defence Authorisation bill 2017 which allocates defence in the larger sphere and there is a note which specifically applies to India where it has a declaration of India as a major defence partner with the directive. It is a congress directive and it is unlike that President will go against it.

The secretary of state will ensure that the relationship with India in terms of technology transfer and strategic elements of the relationship are brought forward.

But India has to have a word of caution as there are sufficient indicators as to believe that pivot to Asia will come under revision in Trump’s policy which will increase defence and security challenges in south Asia, particularly, in context of Japanese and South Korea to defend for themselves largely in defence matter. Europe is also up in arms as France and Germany are in agreement for 5 billion euro project so that they strengthen their defence capabilities. Other countries have moved forward and thus India needs to nimble in footwork in US. India has to move ahead strongly and has to look at options all over while retaining the autonomy of action.

Connecting the dots:

  • Election of Trump has shaken the world. The geopolitics is now expected to go an unconventional way. Discuss.


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