Sees India and US signing NAFTA-like trade agreement and NATO-style alliance for which “there is no need” for a Modi-Trump meeting
The mutual admiration club of AmericanPresidentDonaldTrump and Shalabh Kumar, founder of the Republican Hindu Coalition, is set to pay dividends to the latter, who’s confident of playing a critical role in the new US administration. “I can’t answer the question on whether I will become the ambassador to India or not just now, but I will be involved in one fashion or the other with trade, which is my passion,” Kumar who is in Delhi for a conference, told ET.
While he did not rule out being appointed ambassador, he added that he could even be appointed in a senior outside advisory role similar to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, both of whom are known to be close to President Trump. “Mine could either be a role inside or even outside the administration, like Giuliani or Gingrich; they are operating as senior advisors, but from outside. (My role) could be either,” Kumar said. Gingrich and Giuliani, both of whom were very active during Trump’s election campaign, are now heading a non-profit organisation Greater America Alliance, an advocacy group to support the Trump administration from outside on policy issues. Kumar added that the appointments of new US ambassadors could be between 35 and 40 days away in view of the Senate confirmation hearings. “The Democrats are slowing down confirmation of secretaries, deputy secretaries and assistant secretaries through the filibuster rule in the Senate and similar slowdown is likely in the process of appointments of ambassadors to strategic countries as well.” However, Kumar is already advising the US President on future bilateral ties with India and sees the Indo-US relationship moving ahead under Trump. “We are hoping that Indo-US ties under President Trump will culminate in a bilateral trade agreement between the two countries on the lines of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).” He also believes that a NorthAtlanticTreatyOrganization (NATO) style strategic alliance be- tween India and America is on the cards under the new administration. Furthering bilateral trade will be priority for Kumar who feels that this could create jobs in both India as well as USA. Kumar, however, doesn’t have a date for a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump. “If everyone behind the scenes does their jobs well, there is no need for meetings between the leaders for a bilateral agreement and a defence treaty to become a reality.” The Trump team, according to Kumar, is more action-oriented and doesn’t believe in the kind of optics that the meetings between Barack Obama and PM Modi created. Yet Modi’s visit to Washington in mid2017 is not ruled out. Sources, who did not wish to be identified, indicated to ET that Kumar has more than 50% chance of becoming next US envoy to India. The Trump administration is in the midst of making several appointments including key envoy level appointments in other world capitals. Once appointed the envoys have to be confirmed by the Senate. Besides the State Department is yet to make appointments at the level of Assistant Secretaries of State for various regional divisions including South Asia -- a position that will be directly responsible for Indo-US ties.
(For detailed profile of Shalabh Kumar, readETMagazineonSunday)
Shalabh Kumar is confident of playing a critical role in the Trump admistration