'Trump sought to establish US foreign policy with India as priority'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited President Trump for a bilateral visit to India during their talks in Washington in June 2017 [File] US President Donald Trump being hugged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Reuters

The Indo-US relations have shown a continuity and consistency which is coveted in the current US foreign policy scenario that can sometimes be surprising and unpredictable, said Manpreet Singh Anand, former deputy assistant secretary for South Asia in the Obama administrationn and vice president of the Washington-based think tank, Albright Stonebridge Group.

Anand, who was addressing a gathering of the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents, said that the consistency in relations may not seem much, but viewed from the current environment, it is worthy of applause. He said that US President Donald Trump had sought to establish US foreign policy with India as a priority, and the recently held 2+2 talks, while in themselves is not a monumental shift, were a very positive development. “The US reserves this mechanism of dialogue only for its treaty allies. The talks showed incremental progress on issues, like the estabishment of hotlines and the tri-services exercise.”

He, however, pointed out that the challenges in the bilateral ties remained on the economic side, which could become a likely point of friction. Anand said that unlike other US presidents, who looked at various aspects of bilateral relationships—trade, strategy and political, for Trump, the economic relationship with any country is of paramount importance. He lamented that Trump's single-minded focus of looking at economic relations with any country as a trade deficit was myopic.

Anand further said that long standing allies like France and Germany were having a rethink because of Trump's approach, and that the credibility of the US as a partner was at stake. He regretted that while the Trump dispensation has walked away from several multilateral pacts like the climate accord, Iran nuclear deal and the decision not to ink the Trans Pacific Partnership because it felt that the US was not getting a good deal out of these, no one was able to offer any viable alternatives. Anand cited the example of Secretary of Commerce Weilbur Ross being asked at the Indo-Pacific Economic Forum to present an alternate to the TPP, and he had none.

Similarly, it was regretful that Secretary Ross spoke about the Indo-Pacific as some way to cut trade deficit, though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had talked about it as a strategic relation.