Throughout the last 70 years, India and the USA have had a complicated relationship. Until 1990, the cold war was in full swing with both the Soviet Union and the USA looking for allies around the world. India tried to resist falling into the bloc of either of the two nations by pursuing a policy of non-alignment. However, it had been widely witnessed that India had a tendency to lean towards the Soviet Union more than the USA on crucial geopolitical issues. This gulf between India and the USA further widened because Pakistan, India’s all-weather enemy, was an ally of the USA. The USA provided a crucial helping hand to Pakistan in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. However, with the end of the cold war, the dynamics of Indo-US relations began to change.

As India embraced a capitalist mode of the economy in 1991, its trade relations with the USA increased. There was also a steady flow of Indians to Silicon Valley in the USA due to the boom of the IT sector. Moreover, the USA was looking for a counterweight against China’s economic ascension in the Asian region. All of this led to India becoming a potential ally of the USA. Over the next 2 decades, this alliance was formalized by the Civil-Nuclear deal of 2008, numerous trade teals and USA favoring India in major multilateral organizations. But this steady relationship has been rocked by the Trump presidency. Trump has repeatedly accused India of having close relations with the ‘rogue’ state of Iran and imposing undue tariffs on US imports. But, is this a good time for Trump to push away an important ally like India, perhaps not!

The first and foremost reason for this is, of course, the rise of China. India was meant to be a kind of US-supported counterweight to China in this region. And this analogy is quite relevant today as well. The USA is at loggerheads with China on many issues. An active trade war is ensuing between the two countries with neither country willing to back down. Moreover, China is working hard to expel US influence from the region by expanding its reach in the South China Sea and formulating an alliance with Russia to dominate the region as a whole. In this case, it is in the best interests of the USA to sustain an alliance with India so that it has at least some amount of say in the region.

The second reason is the staggering amount of Indian immigrants in the USA. The US economy derives a lot of its strength from Indian professionals. Most of the Silicon Valley companies such as Google and Microsoft have Indian CEOs and a significant amount of Indian workforce. It is also a fact that one-third of all startups in the USA are initiated by people of Indian origin. Apart from this, there are many Indian doctors working in the USA. Trump should not unduly antagonize Indian Americans by pushing away India as it can be a major factor in the upcoming US elections in 2020. There is an increasing possibility that Trump will face Indian American Kamala Harris in the presidential elections next year. This means that the Indian diaspora will already be more inclined towards his rival and he should avoid doing anything to further alienate himself from them.

The final reason is the situation in Afghanistan. It was one of Trump’s campaign promises in 2016 to pull American troops out of Afghanistan. Keeping the 2020 elections in mind, Trump has now placed the withdrawal of the US troops on the top of his priority list. However, it will not be easy to carry out this move. Trump knows that if he leaves Afghanistan without signing a sustainable ceasefire agreement, it can lead to a Taliban takeover of the entire territory of Afghanistan. This would mean international embarrassment for the USA. Just like the Vietnam War, this would be labeled as another major US policy failure of deploying troops abroad. Moreover, it would increase the confidence of Jihadis throughout the world which could lead to a spike in terrorist activities. To avoid all of this, the USA needs India to get more actively involved in the internal security situation of Afghanistan. Even if India will not deploy troops, it can still play an important part by sending military advisers to Afghanistan to negotiate with the Taliban. Hence, it is imperative for the USA to ask for India’s help when it comes to Afghanistan.

From the above mentioned points, it is quite clear that Trump’s recent anti-India rhetoric is bound to do more damage to the USA than to India. He has already alienated the USA from most of its European allies. This clearly reflects an attitude of complacency and overconfidence. Trump is underestimating the value of diplomacy because of the strongman brand of geopolitics that he practices. It is quite possible that his activities will drive the USA into isolation where it will not be able to count on anyone’s support in the world.

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