~ By Dr. Manan Dwivedi
The American Presidency is the highest and the most hallowed power pedestal in the international system. The personage who is anointed to head the proverbial land of milk and honey is expected to take care of crucial decisions bearing criticality on the firmament of Global Politics. The “Regulator and Democratizing” role playing being attached with the American impact in the larger world makes the United States President run true to the dictum of, “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”.
The outgoing President has been perceived to be found wanting in his response to the major conflict points in international system such as Syria, the complete denouement of the Iran’s nuclear negotiations, the inaction associated with the Libyan developments along with the raging domestic issues of gun violence and general unrest among the Black population in the homeland, according to one set of observations. Thus, President Obama leaves behind a tarred terrain infested with new challenges and the new President Trump will have to hit the road running to combat pertinent issues such as counter terrorism, the sustainability of the economy, unemployment issues, infrastructure enhancement along with the raging bull theme of reinventing and resuscitating America, after, all the palaver about, “the Rising tide of the American Decline”.
President Trump envisages a protectionist policy tilt for the American nation which will create obstructions in a global polity ruled by the idiom of convergence and interdependence by one reading of the scenario. Still, the American overarch will not be completely wished away as is evident from the interactions which President Trump has had with his counter part in Taiwan and the strict wordings of the White House on the recent missile tests by North Korea a few days back.
As key concern the international community has is how seriously doesPresident Trump take his campaign-time characterization ofNATO as being, “obsolete” and as a corollary, in what manner will the geo-economic footprints of United States in the Asia Pacific be curtailed. The Trump argument of recalibrating“the responsibility and contributions” of the European and other Asian allies such as Japan and South Korea as being a key criterion of regional and ally behavior, too, has raised a great iota of doubt and multifarious permutations in the psyche of international relations experts.
The key question is whether the traditional “Philanthropic” positioning of United States will dwindle with an isolationist foreign policy perch of President Trump who has quintessentially propagated a general and comprehensive withdrawal from the overarching conflict and hot-spot zones of the global system. In any way, it has been a characteristic feature of US foreign policy which stipulates that there is a schism between the interventionist/ expansionist and the Isolationist strain of the nation’s foreign policy practice. The interventionist zeal was very much reflected in the Diplomatic overtures which the President elect undertook with the Taiwanese Premier which infuriated the Chinese mandarins.
A lot of global turbulence might be created with the Chinese terming President Trump’s foreign policy inclinations as being Revisionist, where-in, Beijing felt that questions will be raised in the context of the “One-China-Policy” of People’s Republic of China. Speaking about Asia, the Trump transition team has already declared that New Delhi will be a key and strategically significant partner- a continuitywith the Obama Presidency who designated the India-US relations as the defining relationship of the 21stcentury.Trump’s counter-terror policy will also play a role in cementing ties with India.
The two legislations and the executive order passed by President Trump barring citizens from seven Moslem dominated countries such as Libya, Iran. Iraq, Somalia and Syria happens to be one the flagship campaign promises of the President which has been quickly realized by him. With the debate around visa regulations gaining currency, Indians accounted for 63% of the H 1-B visa grantees in the year 2013, with the percentage rising to66% in 2014 and reaching an all time high of 83% in 2015. Also, President Trump has declared that the Obama proposal to form the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been shelved and this amounts to an inward looking policy. This standpoint in the case of TPP makes Washington withdraw from the South East Asian leadership and leaves nations such as South Korea and Japan threatened due to a lack of an American business and commerce umbrella. Still, what needs to be underscored is that such decisions might create a power vacuum in the region and leave the traditional American allies exposed to the Chinese hegemonic designs by one reading the geo strategic situation.
President Trump will sign the new law despite multiple anti-rulings by the American courts. All this has led to the nationwide immigrants raising their placards in a general protest against Trump’s Immigration executive orders. Still, Immigration Acts in 1911, 1924, the anti-Chinese immigration legislation along with the Johnson Reed Act in the 1930s have already been part of the US law.Therefore,what President Trump is attempting has many precedents in US history.Even in the ever changing sphere of H1-B visa regime, the Trump administration might not opt for a far-reaching curtailment as that might alienate the friendly and partner nation states such as India.
The transition time’s mellowing down of rhetoric on other related themes is an indication that some of the blatant sounding pronouncements might be made ductile and have already been sobered down to a certain extent. Still, the key characteristic of the Trump Presidency is to bear a penchant to “Shock and Surprise” on various themes with palliatives following suit.Also, containing China will form a cornerstone of the Washington’s Policy which will engage with India in a bid to be the Containment Pivot which augurs well for New Delhi.
Along with Trump’s dictat on ISIS, Washington is expected to be firm on the concerns of South Asia with an enabling policy to curtail the likes of Haqqani networks and other Indian irritants which pose a grave threat to peace, stability and pose as developmental hitches to South Asian governance. Also, the quasi frontline state-status of Pakistan will not change overnight as the strategic depth of the US Pakistan relationship points at the utilitarian nature of the bilateral relationship in the context of combating Terrorism and on the issues ofnuclear proliferation.
The Trump Presidency is expected to go stern on the plank of counter-terrorism which will definitely augur well for the region as well as for the threat faced by India since the last few decades. The American perception on non-proliferation might turn hawkish on certain issuesand select regions but Obama’s legacy of agreeing to agree with Iran and forging the Nuclear cooperation agreement with Tehran might be endangered which is a cause of concern for some of the disarmament experts. North Korea might be in for a rude surprise causing turbulence in the strategic and the status quo-scenario in the Korean Peninsula.
Still, keeping all geo-strategic and geo-economic views in the purview, the ear;y days of the Trump Presidency is a reflection of the times to come, where-in, mellowing down on some of the issues will make the Trump administration more acceptable and amenable to popular-international and global prescriptions.
(Author is a Faculty of International Relations and International organizations at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi)