Trump in Delhi

US is changing, it can’t be taken for granted. Why India must prepare for a larger global role.

Written by C. Raja Mohan | Published:March 4, 2016 12:18 am
donald trump, US presidential contestm hillary clinton, new york times, clinton vs trump, indian express editorial, indian express Republican candidate Donald trump. (Source: AP)

You would think it’s impossible for someone to criticise the pope, support Planned Parenthood, denounce the American occupation of Iraq under George W. Bush, proclaim neutrality between Israel and Palestine, praise Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and win the Republican Party’s nomination for president.

That’s precisely where the real estate tycoon from New York, Donald Trump, might be headed. Notwithstanding his abrasive personal style, Trump has won 10 out of 15 Republican primaries so far. After making light of his initial victories, the so-called Republican establishment is now desperate to stop Trump. But no one is betting on its success. The idea of “President Trump” has moved from “unimaginable” to “laughable” to “dangerous”.

Those of us outside America must ignore the elite condescension towards Trump and appreciate that his advance reflects an unprecedented churn in American politics. The significance of the 2016 elections becomes clearer when you see Trump in conjunction with Hillary Clinton’s march towards the Democratic nomination.

Whoever wins the election, it would mark an inflection point. America surprised the world in 2008 by electing the first black president with the middle name “Hussein”. It’s likely to surprise us again by electing the first woman to the White House or a crass businessman beyond the political pale.

Before she moves back to the White House on her own steam, Hillary Clinton will make history by becoming the first woman to be nominated for president by either of America’s two leading parties. One strong glass ceiling against political women in America will come crashing down.

Trump has already shaken up the Republican Party by defying many of its ideological red lines and has the potential to reshape America’s domestic politics and international orientation. It was widely assumed his call for a temporary ban on Muslim visitors, the promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and his refusal to dissociate from white racist supporters would fatally damage his candidacy. Yet, the Trump candidacy has grown from strength to strength. He has flummoxed Washington’s punditocracy by expanding his political appeal and cutting across traditional social and political divides.

For many in America, used to carefully synthesised messages from politicians navigating between donors, special interest groups and the electorate, Trump appears to have the guts his rivals lack — to say what they want to hear. As he tears through the Republicans’ traditional opposition to abortion and government-supported healthcare and ideological commitment to free trade and immigration, Trump has drawn a visceral reaction from Republican experts on national security and foreign policy.

In an open letter issued Wednesday night, a group of 50 savants, including former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, and former World Bank president Robert Zoellick, has put across a stinging rebuke against Trump’s policies. Trump’s view of “American influence and power in the world,” the letter said, “is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle” and “swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence”. The group slammed Trump’s call for “trade wars” as “a recipe for economic disaster in a globally connected world”. Trump’s “hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric,” they said, undermines the effort to combat Islamic radicalism, alienates US partners in the Muslim world, and endangers the constitutional freedoms of American Muslims. The experts declared that Trump’s “insistence that close allies such as Japan must pay vast sums for protection is the sentiment of a racketeer, not the leader of the alliances that have served us so well since World War II.”

The letter declared that Trump’s “admiration for foreign dictators such as Vladimir Putin is unacceptable for the leader of the world’s greatest democracy”. Worse still, they accuse Trump of authoritarianism

by arguing his “expansive view of how presidential power should be wielded against his detractors poses a distinct threat to civil liberty”. As “committed and loyal Republicans,” the experts said, “we are unable to support a party ticket with Trump at its head. We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office.”

The letter neatly sums up the elite American critique of Trump. But it may not necessarily be in sync with America’s changing reality. If Trump is channelling primordial fears of many Americans, Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, is doing much the same on the left. Both have been successful in mobilising those losing from economic globalisation and angry at growing inequality. They are tapping into popular resentment against costly foreign adventures in the name of US leadership.

It’s not just the “Republicans for Clinton”, but most of America’s interlocutors, including India, will be eager to see Hillary win the election. But given the current turmoil, there’s no betting Clinton might walk effortlessly to the White House. Beating Trump will not be easy; and Sanders might come to the Democratic Convention strong enough to influence the party’s electoral platform. Flexible and canny politician that she is, Hillary is likely to adapt to America’s angry mood.

If America is changing at home, its foreign policy can’t remain the same. The 2016 election is bound to push America towards some foreign policy choices considered, until now, out of bounds. The world can no longer take America for granted amid declining domestic support for free trade, immigration, alliance commitments and

military interventions. This would necessarily mean emerging powers like India must prepare for larger regional and international responsibilities in the economic and security domains.

 

The writer is director, Carnegie India,and consulting editor on foreign affairs for ‘The Indian Express’

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  1. R
    Ravi
    Mar 5, 2016 at 4:59 pm
    Raja Mohan refers to critics of Trump as elitists. Since he announced his candidacy (and even before that) Trump has repeatedly insulted Hispanics, Muslims, Blacks, and women. His speeches are full of threats and bluster and boasting. He has no serious answers to serious issues. Being repelled by all this is not being elitist. Ordinary people too feel this disgust.
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      Nathan
      Mar 5, 2016 at 11:01 pm
      It is 100% certain that Mr. Trump Is going to be The POTUS in Feb 2017. He is very bold and outspoken. People of America have become fed up with politicians and their promises , they want somebody who is NOT already a politician to become POTUS. It is a fact that the war in IRAQ was wrong and Mr. Trump is really bold to criticize the former President George W Bush. War in IRAQ brought loss of human lives including thousands of American soldiers and set back to American economy. To really understand Mr. Trump it is good to listen to his off the record interviews as mentioned in newspapers.
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        Observer
        Mar 4, 2016 at 8:36 am
        India playing a larger role in International affairs? That seems outlandish, given the fact that we seem to the world to be a broken polity where govt is in conflict with its own people. A Country that cant address and give voice to its own students, hardly seems a likely global leader. Trump can hopefully feel that he is electable because of his bluster. after all Modi too got elected because of his rhetoric and promises of Acche din.
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        1. M
          MiLady
          Mar 4, 2016 at 4:04 am
          Its not even clear that Hillary will be able to even run given her email fiasco. It might even happen that Trump is elected unopposed
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            josh
            Mar 4, 2016 at 2:35 pm
            in conflict with its own people? LOL. Definitely in conflict with a mahacorruptionbhandan political group and left-wing runt of students. How many universities came out in support of the anti-nationals? There is a definite similarity with the British experience of left-wing pseudo-intellectuals actively supporting Soviet designs in the 50s and 60s. Similarly, Left-wingers along with a large section of Muslims support (truly) fascist ideologies like ISIS and al-Qaeda, ie. Pak regime.
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            1. S
              Saima Anwar
              Mar 5, 2016 at 7:34 am
              Good analysis
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                Jemma Thomas
                Mar 5, 2016 at 1:26 am
                Yes we need to and it is bound to happen as evolutionary process of civilisation intervenes. In a democracy, people's voices are the ultimate power. It is not only in America and it applies to every other country who wants to lead a civilized manner. When these elitist or so called establishment trying to impose their preconceived form of national image on people who has no food to eat or place to call it has their home or provide such basic necessities to their next gen then comes the question of conflict of interest. This is exactly where the opportunity lies for outsiders to exploit. So comes Trump and Sanders. We have already seen the same vulnerable America using Obama to balance the extreme right. Now America is feeling that it has tilted too much left and it is time to bring it back to bit of middle ground or even to right. Every civilised country has big middle and sizable right and left. In the last two election the middle america supported with left to bring in Obama (again with anti establishment tinge) and now the same middle trying to side with right and bring in anti establishment president. There is nothing wrong in their essment. Who are these so called elites including pope to tell ordinary citizens how to live their life or how to voice their opinion. Not when the society is polarised to an extent where survival becomes ulterior instinct. Who are these people to say that PUTIN is villain and the so called America's friends in middle east are not terrorists, when ordinary citizens feel vulnerable and insecure while the country is splashing around the world with armory and military bases. It is perfectly alright for Americans to think that it is time to pull back from all these wastage in Europe and re-prioritise where the threat is existential. Republican party doesn't belong to any individual like romney or bush, end of the day there is process and Trump is going through the process of pre-selection, on the way if he has ruptured these so called stalwarts of party then it shows their consuents have changed their priorities in life but these elites are out of touch with consuents. When there is no food to eat or no place to sleep who cares about anti abortion or a base in Germany or threat posed by Putin to Europe. All I need is food on table to my kids and a cover over head. America is not going to collapse on 20th Jan 2017, it is evolutionary process and while it takes its course, there are players who will be filling it like Eurpoe, India and China or may be some new kid in the corner. On the way there will be some rumbles, some thunders, some quakes and some loses and some gains. All in the game of evolution and no need to get get excited or feel anxiety. HAVING A EYE ON THE BALL IS THE NAME OF THE GAME.
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                1. B
                  Babu Rao
                  Mar 5, 2016 at 3:25 am
                  i don't understand why dumb indian's(e.g. C. Raja Mohan) think democratic president is good for india and not republican's. Show me one example where democratic has shown any sort close nees towards india compare to republicans. why indian's should think any president or head of other country would be good for india. ts like indian people let brits rule for 200 years Why can't indian's trust their own PM?
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                    anonymous
                    Mar 6, 2016 at 7:34 am
                    HILLARY CLINTON WILL BE NEXT PRESIDENT AS SHE IS ACCEPTABLE TO ALLOW IN SPITE OF ALLEGATION OF BEING CORRUPT AND IMMORAL , AS GOT FUNDS FROM DICTATORS , SHE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CARRY OUT THIS DUTY BASED ON HER PAST EXPERIENCE.
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                      meg
                      Mar 4, 2016 at 3:31 pm
                      The beauty of democracy is no one can dictate Trump will cease to be a Trump once he is President
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                        Ramesh Nittoor
                        Mar 5, 2016 at 2:10 am
                        The bitter political divide in India gave rise of PM Modi, who the discerning realized would be a force of good. unfortunately in US it has led to The Trump phenomenon, who the discerning realize is a grave security threat to American values and way of life. But Trump is going to falter now, his excesses is leading to strong purposeful responses and efforts to restore the credibility of Republican establishment. Though this process is unlikely to decisive by November. Trump may have made it easier for Hillary Clinton to romp home, and she may even get a more amenable Republican party to deal with.
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                          pkpk
                          Mar 4, 2016 at 5:37 pm
                          Modi has started GARIBI HATAO campaign like Indira hi.
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                            Punerimanoos
                            Mar 4, 2016 at 1:57 pm
                            It is difficult to understand those who criticize the current Modi govt. Do they seriously want the Congress/Mayawati/SP or the AAP to come to the centre? I mean, what more is it that they expected the govt to achieve in one-and-a-half-years? Can't you guys wait for acche din?
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                              Raju Charles
                              Apr 23, 2016 at 11:52 am
                              Ghar wapsi Trump will make India to follow Uncle Sam!
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                              1. R
                                Raju Charles
                                Apr 23, 2016 at 11:56 am
                                Trump will take care of Ghar wapsi and immoral police!
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                                  ramdas
                                  Mar 4, 2016 at 5:55 am
                                  Trump would win if he runs independently. This would be a nightmare for Republican Party.
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                                    rkannan
                                    Mar 4, 2016 at 7:33 am
                                    Does it really matter, to India,who wins the American election and what he/she says during campaigning ? Clinton started of as anti Indian but ended his term as moderately pro Indian. Bush was anti Indian to begin with but 26/11 changed that. Obama started by cosying up to China and carve the world into two spheres of influence but did not succeed. However, he is clearly more comfortable with China and stan than with India. Hillary will probably continue in the same vein. Trump is an unknown eny as he has attacked China, stan and India in his speeches. However, what is needed is for India to persue its economic goals and develop its military and scientific capabilities. We should expect that the best we can get from any US government is lukewarm support and the worst is moderate hostility.
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                                      Rohit Chopra
                                      Mar 4, 2016 at 7:33 pm
                                      Mian, first grow up to understand that being in power in a democracy does not mean all components of political spectrum will be your supporters or friends. Which students ? Ultra leftists in their thirties who just want to hang on in JNU for free boarding and lodging in heart of capital? Which people ? Communal ret@rds or lefties like you? Do you even understand meaning of at war with own people?
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                                        MP Singh
                                        Mar 4, 2016 at 2:02 pm
                                        World is changing its old ways. Unthinkable are becoming realities - a black President of the United States, Narendra Modi as India's Prime Minister, and now Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton as the US President. Two decades back these concepts were laughable; now they are becoming realities. Donald Trump is the product of American anger over its lawmakers who have done everything bad for the country during the last two decades. Its economy is suffering badly because of their inefficiencies. Lobbyists and donors control the election and the elected representatives, including the President. They think more of themselves than of the country. Trump is free from the donor and lobbyist effect; he uses his own money. Previously the Americans had no option since both sides lobbyists and donors were in control. This time they see their viable option in Trump and, despite opposition from Tump's own Republican Party, Americans may elect him to lead the nation because his promises fulfill their aspirations.
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                                          v b
                                          Mar 4, 2016 at 3:20 pm
                                          It appears that Trump is successfully plugging to many Americans' innate (if not always openly expressed) aspirations (of USA remaining a dominant country in the world) and fears (of Americans losing their jobs to Chinese, Indians and others, of Islamic fundamentalists damaging America's peace, safety and security, of the Whites who were the original immigrants to USA being outnumbered by Latin Americans and Asians). He is not committed to any ideology.
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                                            VS
                                            Mar 5, 2016 at 2:39 am
                                            Hillary's previous slant for India may not continue. She is being actively courted by people not favorably inclined to our interests, specially the present government. White House is not always successful in shedding campaign influences.
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