THE dramatic resignation of US National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn on Monday night, the first head rolling in less than a month into the Donald Trump administration, has come as a validation for New Delhi’s “wait and watch” policy towards Washington. Flynn, who resigned amid a flow of intelligence leaks that he had secretly discussed sanctions with the Russian Ambassador to Washington and then tried to cover up, was one of the earliest Trump appointees and had met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in end-December.
Even before Flynn’s resignation, Government sources said, New Delhi has been unsure of the direction of Trump’s policy and his administration’s capability and resources to execute it.
“Ours is a wait-and-watch policy as we have to look at three things under the Trump administration. First, the direction of their policy; second, is their will, capability and resources to execute that policy; and, third, is the response of America’s closest allies,” sources said.
Sources said that as a Presidential candidate, Trump signalled a desire to minimise American commitment and expenditure globally. This will have implications for India, for instance in the Middle East, which has a large Indian diaspora working there. New Delhi will continue to look for choices the Trump administration makes in these countries.
Looking forward to the critical appointments being made in the Trump administration, sources said that “major shifts in a policy require getting over and mastering a complex process. Does he have the people around him who can do the heavy lifting to change the course?”
There have been regular interactions between New Delhi and the Trump team since the results came in last November. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar met the Trump transition team in the US in November. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar spoke to the new American Defence Secretary General James Mattis last Wednesday. Trump administration is yet to announce its ambassador to New Delhi — Richard Verma demitted office at the end of Obama’s tenure.
Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump have so far exchanged pleasantries over telephone on January 24, the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders is expected to happen in July during the G20 summit at Hamburg, Germany.
“Look at our bilateral defence relationship. Defence cooperation is now part of American law, and there are institutional frameworks. The two countries will continue to cooperate,” sources said.
According to sources, New Delhi would cooperate with the new US administration as far as deportation of illegal Indian immigrants in that country to India is concerned. Many Indians from Punjab had illegally migrated to the US during the Khalistan movement and India is bound by international norms to accept them back.
“These illegal immigrants had gone without any Indian passport which means that they went against the wishes of the government. It is our responsibility to take them back if such people are identified by the US government and verified by us to be Indian nationals. No national policy will be violated in this case,” sources said.
As for the H1-B visa issue is concerned, Modi is said to have raised this issue with Trump.