TRUMP’S WORLD

India Today - - UP FRONT - The au­thor is a for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary By Niru­pama Rao

With the rise of Don­ald Trump in Amer­ica, the sun has set on the post-WW II or­der

ALARM

It rained a lit­tle on the in­au­gu­ral cer­e­mony of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Jan­uary 20. An in­au­gu­ra­tion like no other, the mood was dark, suf­fused by angeron-a-leash, but anger nonethe­less. The newly anointed leader-of-the-free world’s speech was com­bat­ive, un­smil­ing, al­most war-painted. His words were a call to arms: making Amer­ica great again will in­volve a show of mus­cle, no speak­ing softly, and yes, car­ry­ing a big stick.

If there was a take­away from the ad­dress for that ag­glom­er­a­tion of con­ti­nents called the rest of the world, it was ‘brace, brace, brace!’ This is going to be a roller-coaster ride, in a world dic­tated to by an ab­sence of strat­egy, by the here and now, as Robert Zoel­lick said re­cently.

And In­dia! The part­ner­ship be­tween In­dia and the US is the legacy of the Bush and Obama years. Will it en­dure and flour­ish? Trump’s pri­or­i­ties, as ar­tic­u­lated, lie in the elim­i­na­tion of Is­lamic rad­i­cal­ism, in trade pro­tec­tion­ism, in making clear to al­lies that there are no free rides, in re­set­ting re­la­tions with Rus­sia and ril­ing the Chi­nese. In­dia has not been men­tioned—which may be a good thing.

Could it mean it will be a while be­fore In­dia gets the fo­cused at­ten­tion of the new ad­min­is­tra­tion? That may well be the case. The se­nior ap­point­ments to de­part­ments that deal with In­dia, in­clud­ing the nam­ing of a new am­bas­sador, will pro­vide the first sig­nals of the ap­proach and em­pha­sis In­dia and the re­gion will re­ceive. Re­newed stir­rings within the US Congress on re­strict­ing visas, which will now be syn­chro­nised with the nativist pro­tec­tion­ism of a Trump White House, will set off alarms here. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach to Pak­istan will bear watch­ing. That is In­dia’s wail­ing wall, de­signed to set re­la­tions on edge.

Then there’s China. Some risk man­age­ment is ad­vis­able. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Asia pol­icy may be elu­ci­dated, if at all, with tweets and gun­boats, and sabre-rat­tling and ac­count-squar­ing may be the daily menu. There is lit­tle rea­son for In­dia to pledge al­le­giance to Amer­i­can ob­streper­ous­ness on this count. Our China pol­icy, the bal­anc­ing of it, must be the sum of its own al­go­rithms, even as we need Amer­ica, our se­cu­rity and de­fence re­la­tion­ship, our co­op­er­a­tion in counter-ter­ror­ism and our peo­ple-cen­tred co­op­er­a­tion.

With the rise of Trump, the sun sets on the post-World War II or­der. The hori­zons ahead are ill-de­fined. Smart­ness and agility in pol­icy for­mu­la­tion and op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion will be at a pre­mium. In­ter­ests, not friend­ships, are the lodestar. Making Amer­ica great again puts the en­tire world on no­tice.

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