How will Donald Trump shape U.S. relations with India and Pakistan? And can Trump amend relations between New Delhi and Islamabad? Donald Trump’s presidency is not only going to have a huge impact on the U.S. but also globally, and Asia is the primary focus today.
Trump’s surprise election means big changes are coming to Asia. That’s why financial markets in Asia saw immediate and heavy sell-offs the day after Trump was declared President, according to China’s KGI Bank research. It’s because there are uncertainties about what be Trump’s policies towards Asia, especially South Asia, will be. But it’s both India and Pakistan that hope to get a fancier slice of U.S. friendship.
Will Trump be friends with India or Pakistan?
Trump’s surprise victory on Tuesday has Pakistan worried. There are legitimate reasons why Trump would make a shift in U.S. policy to favor Pakistan’s traditional enemy, India.
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Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors significantly deteriorated in September when India claimed Pakistan-based militants killed 19 of its soldiers. The attack took place in the disputed Kashmir region, which both Islamabad and New Delhi claim to be their own territory.
Although the U.S. and Pakistan have been historical allies in the region, their relations took a turn to the worse. It all started with Washington accusing Pakistan of sheltering ISIS militants. Although Pakistan strongly denies the accusations, the U.S. believes Islamabad is responsible for the surge of Islamist militants. In May, an American drone killed the leader of the Afghan Taliban movement on Pakistani territory, which raised even more suspicion.
So with Trump becoming the new President, Pakistan remains uncertain about its future relations with the U.S. Will the Trump administration keep accusing Pakistan, or will there be a restart in their relations?
However, there is a video of Trump saying, “I love Pakistan” is going viral on the social media:
As he arrived to attend a ceremony, Trump said that “We love Pakistan, I love Pakistan.”
It should be mentioned here that David Hale, Ambassador of the United States to Pakistan has said that there would not be any change in foreign policy towards Pakistan.
What does Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric mean for Pakistan?
Pakistanis are worried about Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. The former television star once said it would be a good idea to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. It also doesn’t fare well for Pakistan-U.S. relations that Trump has deep business ties to India.
After disappearing for few hours, the Muslim ban statement is re-instated on Trump’s website:
It’s expected from the Trump administration that the U.S. would shift further toward India. India-U.S. relations have seen a significant improvement lately, even though the U.S. has had tense relations with Russia, India’s key weapons supplier. But Trump has previously hinted that he would be interested in amending ties with Russia. Moreover, the new President said he respects Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leadership values.
In the backdrop of the tense relations between Russia and the U.S., Moscow has gravitated towards Pakistan. Even though it still remains India’s key weapons supplier, it doesn’t stop Russia from carrying out joint military drills with Pakistan.
What’s even more worrisome for Pakistan is Trump’s comments to Fox News in May. The then-presidential candidate said he would keep nearly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan “because it’s adjacent and right next to Pakistan which has nuclear weapons.” Such comments indicate that Trump doesn’t trust Pakistan. It also indicates that the U.S. President-elect wants to deter Pakistan from possibly using its nuclear weapons in the region.
All in all, Trump has yet to lay out his policy in South Asia. For now, political experts can only guess Trump’s intentions and possible allies in the region.
Trump doesn’t want Indians to work in U.S.
But Trump’s potential distrust of Pakistanis doesn’t necessarily mean Indians will most certainly get to lick the lollipop from Trump. The reason? Immigration. During his presidential campaign, Trump has made a series of anti-immigrant comments. And they weren’t directed only to Mexicans (though they got a massive share of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric). Trump also attacked the workhorse of Indian immigration to the U.S. The President-elect has a problem with the H-1B visa program, which allows highly-skilled foreign workers to find a job in the U.S. for a limited period of time.
“I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program,” Trump said while on the campaign trail.
Trump also expressed his interest in introducing checks and balances in companies taking advantage of the H1-B visa program. It means companies will have to prioritize Americans when hiring before looking for foreign professionals.
That’s worrisome news for U.S.-India economic relations, as India provides the U.S. with its software industry workers. Indian Americans are the most educated and highest-income group of all immigrants in the U.S., according to Wednesday’s research paper by the State Bank of India.
U.S.-China tensions are good news for India
India should also keep a close eye on U.S.-China relations as well. Trump is not a fan of China and has repeatedly made anti-China comments.
China and India are rivals in the region. The two countries share a large, un-demarcated border where occasional hostilities take place. In fact, China has been warming up to Pakistan, India’s biggest enemy, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. So Trump opposing China could be good news for India. The President-elect has repeatedly made negative comments about globalization, and Chinese exports to the U.S. are a pure form of globalization.
In 2015, the U.S. experienced a trade deficit of $336 billion, while the country imported about $500 billion in goods from China. Trump pledged to bring down the deficit, which means restricting imports from China. Not only will it create additional tensions in U.S.-China relations but also inspire other countries, such as India, to try to ramp up their own exports to the U.S.
India vs. Pakistan water conflict poses global threat
Most importantly, Trump, as a fresh face in politics, has a unique chance to resolve the water conflict between India and Pakistan. We reported earlier this month that UN experts warned that the water conflict between the two nations may even lead to global war.
There are several factors that affect the water conflict between India and Pakistan: climate change, global warming, population growth and depletion of natural resources. All rivers in South Asia, including the Indus River located in the disputed Kashmir region, are the worst-affected by climate change. Climate change can bring catastrophic consequences.
Both droughts and chronic water scarcity are the result of climate change. In fact, India is already suffering from a water crisis. If Trump doesn’t bring in his expert team to help resolve the crisis, the lack of access to drinking water in the Indus River could result in a war between India and Pakistan.
Read more about India vs. Pakistan water conflict here.