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A counterpolar world is the new political reality: analysis


The president of the United States (US), Donald Trump, will make a two-day high visibility trip to India, starting Monday. His first stop will be Ahmedabad, where he will be received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Referring to his inaugural visit, Trump said: “He [Modi] He told me that we will have 7 million people between the airport and the event. “The event will be similar to the great show” Howdy Modi “in Houston, Texas, in September, where Trump also appeared in a large gathering of the Indian-born diaspora in the United States.

However, the scale of this public diplomacy will contrast with the modest outcome during formal meetings in Delhi. Speaking on February 18 about his first visit to India, Trump broke the hopes of any major trade agreement. “We can have a trade agreement with India, but I’m really keeping the big trade agreement for later.”

In Trump’s worldview, India has been a difficult trading partner and in the past accused Delhi of being the “king of tariffs” in the world, and the Harley Davidson motorcycle episode has become the symbol of the presidential anger. According to the data of the Commercial Representative of the United States, in 2018, the trade deficit of the United States with India was $ 25.2 billion, of which the commercial deficit of goods was $ 20.8 billion. Therefore, Trump said: “India does not treat us very well, but I really like Prime Minister Modi.” This places Modi in a special category, as there aren’t too many world leaders who have received such positive support from Trump, despite the differences, and a reflection of the skillful Indian diplomacy.

But as expected, while the trade relationship is in the crisis over tariff issues and dismay in Delhi over the removal of India from the list of “developing” countries, the relationship of military supplies remains strong and points to a strategic partnership. shared, although uneven. The maritime domain.

On February 19, the Indian cabinet approved $ 2. Acquisition for 6 billion of 24 US-made multi-purpose helicopters (Lockheed Martin) for the Navy. This arms deal is expected to be one of the most important results of Trump’s visit and will strengthen the bilateral defense and security relationship that gained more traction in 2009.

This followed the historical approach between the US. UU. And India in late 2008 after decades of bitter distancing over the nuclear problem that was resolved during the surveillance of George Bush-Manmohan Singh. The trigger in Washington for this Indian accommodation was strategic and related to China. The Bush central team, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, had reached the determination in early 2005 that an insoluble distancing with India was not in the greatest strategic interest of the United States in the context of a rising China That was getting firmer. Hence the radical review of the White House of bilateral ties with India.

Fifteen years later, although the general orientation of the bilateral relationship remains consistent with the provisions of 2005, the cost-benefit analysis in Washington on the subject of India has undergone a Trump transmutation.

China remains a strategic concern for Washington, but the current White House team isdiluting its commitment to globalization and free trade to protect American interests. The ensuing turbulence has had an impact on both Beijing and Delhi, and Trump’s visit reflects this relentless approach to the transactional element and the benefits that would be obtained for the re-election campaign of the US president. UU.

In the elliptical way Trump’s policies are modified, he added about the visit to India: “We are making a great trade agreement with India. We will have it I don’t know if we will have it before [US] elections, but we will have a great deal with India. ”

The fact that India is a great democracy was previously seen in the United States as a distinctive feature, to encourage it. This is no longer the main driver of the bilateral relationship. India is not among the top five trading partners of the United States and is not a formal military ally. There are many areas of dissonance, ranging from US policy. UU. Towards Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran and Washington’s unhappiness with India over the supply of certain Russian military equipment.

Given its lowest rate of comprehensive national power in relation to the US. UU. And China, India has to commit to the equivalent of the subaltern tightrope, walking to achieve the right balance in the complex relationship that animates the strategic triangle Washington-Beijing-Delhi. India has a deep security and strategic trust deficit with China, but seeks to improve the commercial and economic relationship with Beijing to reach the coveted $ 5 billion GDP that Modi aims to reach in 2024. Consequently, India will have to work to improve its trade marks the two main world economies, the United States and China, even while managing individual security strategic dissonances. The security commitment to the US UU. It allows India to better manage its dilemma with China.

The US policy towards China is in a state of change on trade issues, now compounded by the challenge of the coronavirus, but Trump-Modi’s final statement will be closely studied in Beijing for its strategic subtext.

Trump’s visit to India attests to the emergence of what might be called a “counterpolar” world, in which contradictory political activities and contrary impulses are increasingly becoming the norm.

C Uday Bhaskar is director of the Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi.

The opinions expressed are personal.

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