Monday, January 23, 2017

India Facing Trump Card

 Pankaj Sharma |  22 Jan 2017 

If the inaugural speech of the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald John Trump, is any indication, India is bound to pass through a very turbulent economic weather in the days to come. The message to Indian companies providing information technology enabled services could not have been clearer in the first half of Trump's speech that during his tenure there would not be any leniency in accommodating India at the cost of American interest.

"For many decades, we've enriched foreign industries at the expense of American industry; subsidised the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay," Trump said. 

"We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world," he went on to add. 

Trump believes India tops the list of the countries which have benefitted enormously by creating jobs and wealth at the expense of America. He now seeks to reverse this dynamic. Therefore, Indian IT industry is bound to face a very tough time during Trump regime. When Trump continued by saying that he wants to issue a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power and it is going to be America First from this moment onwards, he meant a cap on H1B visas and a lesser number of on-site jobs. That means students and job seekers from India would have the dark shadow of the immigration services over their heads in coming days. To achieve his goal Trump had perfect clarity in his mind and assured Americans by declaring, "We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's negotiation skills will be on test for the next few months because he has to get used to a new President who is known to be a tough negotiator. More than US President, Trump is a real estate mogul in his heart and Modi will not be able to take the liberty of calling him 'my friend Donald' as was the case with 'Barack'. Trump has made it known to the world that he prefers to rebuild his country with American hands and American labour. "We follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American", he emphasised in his inaugural speech after taking oath as President.

There could be a large section of world audience that finds Trump's speech missing the aura of former American Presidents. His speech might have been less historical and without intellectual punches that can be quoted, but though delivered in simple words, the speech communicated a strong sense of Trump's commitments. He was straightforward and ignored all diplomatic protocols when he said, "We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs". Trump openly justified Protectionism, which he feels will create more employment and opportunities in America and for American citizens themselves rather than outsourcing jobs.

Thinking that India can rejoice as there has been a significant representation of the community in Trump administration could be proved wrong when the new President gets to work in the oval office. Dejection would be the result of any extra enthusiasm in leg-shacking over an Indian touch to the inauguration as DJ and drummer Ravi Jakhotia opened the inaugural concert with scintillating beats. This is the time when India has to learn the subtleness of diplomacy and realise that it has to acquire the required language in dealing with Trump and gone are the days of 'chats on the phone with friend Barack'.

There is no dearth of people who feel that Trump's inaugural address sounded like any speech at his election rally and the scene at the oath taking ceremony was a campaign event writ large, with a massive cheering crowd of white people wearing "Make America Great Again" red caps. They feel President Trump drew a dark picture of a country under siege from foreign trade competitors, Muslim terrorists, and Washington insiders and there were no grace notes. But, I feel that Trump played his cards well and his base no doubt loved it. He, after calling the Obamas "magnificent," deliberately showed overt rudeness to them, portraying a do-nothing Washington that had betrayed the people and enriched itself keeping his constituency well in mind. That is the reason that his strongest critics say that from the white bodies in the crowd to the white faces of the performers, to the intended white audience for his words, Trump's inauguration was a blatant moment of white reconciliation.

I do not know how serious Trump's nods to lack of prejudice were. Was his call that "when you open your heart to patriotism there is no room for prejudice" stoking Islamophobia? Did he really mean the same when he said that "whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood"? What could have Democratic leaders from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton sitting there, silently, done than granting legitimacy to what their newly elected President wanted American citizens to believe?

Most of the world's great strongmen give great speeches. "Every day, the people will rule more," promised Hugo Chavez in 2011. "The people will be the ones who decide," said Nicolás Maduro last year. "There is no power higher than the power of the people," said Erdogan. Let the Americans hope that Trump will fulfil his commitment that he "will never let you down". But has he already done it by bringing more billionaires into the Washington establishment than any other President, with a Cabinet worth $14bn combined? These include CEOs and officials of the very banks that profited off of the misery of those ordinary Americans that Trump promises will rule again. Trump sounded like he was not taking over a first world country with its share of problems that needed to be addressed, but a developing world basket case. India witnessed a similar phenomenon in May 2014 when the nation was told that nothing had been done in past 70 years and here comes the man who will set everything right.

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