See More on Facebook

Analysis, Opinion

Trump’s India tilt

Donald Trump Jr’s visit to India signals a political shift to the sub-continent and warming ties between the senior Trump’s administration and the Modi government.


Written by

Updated: February 27, 2018

Last week, Donald Trump Jr visited India to tour and promote properties licensed by the Trump Organisation. The visit has been controversial in the US, blurring the lines between business and politics, and creating discomfort around the potential conflicts of interest between the US president’s official position and his commercial interests as represented by his son. Democrats and ethics watchdogs especially objected to Trump Jr’s plans to make a speech on Indo-Pacific ties, arguing that as a private citizen on a business trip, the president’s son should not discuss US foreign policy. (The address was canceled hours before it was scheduled to take place.)

While protocol may ultimately have been observed, there is no doubt that there was a political dimension to Trump Jr’s visit. Senators rightly noted that the president’s son would be perceived as representing the US government. The mangled plans for a foreign policy address did not help discourage this perception. Nor did Modi’s presence at the business conference Trump Jr attended. And photos of a member of Trump’s family, garlanded and sporting a bindi, say it all: the Trump brand — the father, the son, and their whole set-up — are entranced by India.

That message is reiterated by the US’s steadily declining relations with Pakistan. Trump Jr’s cavorts with Indian businessmen coincided with the FATF plenary where the US successfully lobbied to have Pakistan ‘greylisted’ for failing to sufficiently tackle money laundering and terrorism financing. Simul­ta­neously, Trump’s deputy press secretary stated that the US president is “not satisfied with progress when it comes to Pakistan”. The FATF blow is the latest pressure tactic by Washington, following the suspension of aid and demands to root out Afghan militant sanctuaries.

All this is sufficient to make conspiracy theorists who have long railed against a supposed US-India nexus to destabilize and isolate Pakistan feel vindicated. But it is not as simple as that.

Trump Jr’s visit indicates that the tilt to India is driven by the mixed motivations of this particular administration. It is probably no coincidence that, according to a November 2016 Washington Post report, the Trump Organisation has more business interests in India than any other foreign country. The first family is not beyond using strong political ties now to reap the financial windfall once Trump’s term ends: while in India, Trump Jr griped about not being able to strike new deals owing to his father’s position and said he expected to be “welcomed again with open arms” once his family was out of politics.

India is also receptive to Trump’s art-of-the-deal version of diplomacy, which is dominated by transactions such as defense deals. As such, there is likely much short-termism in the US approach that is pro-India and hard on Pakistan. Although Washington and Delhi agree on some major issues — such as curtailing China’s regional role — they will continue to disagree on many issues, ranging from economic, energy and environmental policies to the US hopes that India will be a more willing participant in its various regional interventions. Future administrations will likely seek to rebalance the US’s South Asia strategy, recognizing the value of keeping Pakistan on the same side.

The FATF debacle is also a good reminder that the regional equation is not as simple as India-US versus Pakistan-China. Pakistan was reportedly grey listed because the US urged China and Saudi Arabia to drop their opposition to the move. This is unsurprising. Nations, including our key allies, have multiple interests that need to be deftly secured in a multipolar world. Rather than pursue an equally sophisticated, multipronged foreign policy, Pakistan continues to be reliant on the goodwill of friends, wounded by betrayals, petulant in response.

There are, however, signs that good sense might prevail. Backc­hannel talks between Pakistan and the US continue at the highest (military) levels. This subtle diplomacy is the best approach to ride out Trump’s Indophilia, and should include civilian as well as military representatives to ensure that any bilateral understanding forged is holistic and serves Pakistan’s myriad interests, not security concerns alone.

While Trump Jr chugged champagne with India’s business elite, our prime minister joined hands with representatives from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and India to inaugurate the TAPI gas pipeline. This project offers a different vision for the region than the one proffered in Trump’s tweets and his family’s business networking and championed by the previous US administration — one of a region integrated by energy connectivity and mutual economic interests. The TAPI pipeline has had several false starts and still faces financing and security hurdles (despite an Afghan Taliban promise to protect the pipeline) that may yet stymie its ambitious two-year completion deadline. But as far as pipe dreams go, it offers a better alternative to the deepening rifts on all sides.

(This article was written by Huma Yusuf and appeared originally in the Dawn Newspaper)



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


ANN Members
About the Author: Asia News Network is a regional media alliance comprising 24 media entities.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Opinion

President Xi emphasizes role of Hong Kong, Macau

Both Hong Kong and Macao were told to integrate with nation’s overall development. President Xi Jinping underlined on Monday the unique and irreplaceable role of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions for China’s reform and opening-up in the new era. He also called on the two regions to better integrate themselves with the nation’s overall development. Xi’s remarks came as he met with a delegation of about 210 representatives from the two SARs who were in Beijing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. The position and role of Hong Kong and Macao will only be strengthened rather than weakened, Xi said. The two regions should continue to play a leading role and enable more capital, technology and talent to take part in the country’s high-quality development and in the new round of high-level opening-up, he said. People of the two regions should continu


By China Daily
November 13, 2018

Analysis, Opinion

Report of NK’s ‘undisclosed’ missile bases not new, S. Korea says

South Korea’s presidential office on Tuesday played down a new report on North Korea’s “undisclosed” missile sites. South Korea’s government said that it’s going too far to call the North’s continued activity a “great deception” given that it has no specific agreement to dismantle or disclose the facilities mentioned in the report issued by Beyond Parallel, a group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The group said it has located 13 out of an estimated 20 missile operating bases undeclared by the secretive communist regime. “The dispersed deployment of these bases and distinctive tactics employed by ballistic missile units are combined with decades of extensive camouflage, concealment and deception practices to maximize the survival of its missile units from pre-emptive strikes and during wartime operations,” the report


By The Korea Herald
November 13, 2018

Analysis, Opinion

‘Forced repatriation’ to pose security risk

International crisis warns that forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees could pose serious security risks. The International Crisis Group has warned of serious security risks of “forced repatriation” of the Rohingya, just as Myanmar and Bangladesh prepare for the November 15 return of the refugees sheltered in Bangladesh. In a statement, the Brussels-based global advocacy body said Rohingyas strongly opposed the repatriation move and would do whatever they can to resist it. “This [forced repatriation] will increase tension in the camps and could lead to confrontations between refugees and Bangladesh security forces and greatly complicate humanitarian operations. “A botched repatriation attempt could potentially set back peace and development efforts by years,” said the statement released yesterday. It comes two weeks after Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the repatriation


By Daily Star
November 13, 2018

Analysis, Opinion

No further dismantlement at NK missile site

North Korea’s key missile site has not been dismantled further since August, a US website monitoring the regime said Thursday. North Korea has pledged to dismantle a missile engine testing site and a launch pad in Dongchang-ri as part of its stated commitment to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. 38 North said satellite imagery from Oct. 31 indicates there has been no additional dismantlement activity since August. “Components that were previously removed remain stacked on the ground at both locations,” 38 North said in an article posted on its website. Meanwhile, the imagery shows new equipment, possibly for ventilation,


By The Korea Herald
November 9, 2018

Analysis, Opinion

China Trade War Update

China has kicked off the country’s first ever international import expo in Shanghai, an event designed to boost China’s image as a market to the world. President Xi Jinping, in his opening remarks, said that the Shanghai expo isn’t simply an trade fair, rather it should be viewed as a “major policy for China to push for a new round of high-level opening-up and a major measure for China to take the initiative to open its market to the world.” The Import Expo was not initially designed as an answer to the trade war with the United States—the expo was first announced more than a year ago in May of 2017, long before the first shots of the trade war were fired—but in a way that’s what it has become. President Xi


By Quinn Libson
November 8, 2018

Analysis, Opinion

Japan sets out plan to regulate IT giants more strictly

A panel set up to study the issue has recommended plans to regulate IT companies more strictly. The government needs to create tough regulations for information technology giants through measures such as forming a specialist monitoring team, according to an interim report released Monday by the government’s expert panel. Based on the report, the Fair Trade Commission will launch a large-scale investigation as early as the beginning of next year into the actual situation of business deals conducted by IT firms. The government will kick off discussions on tougher measures that would include obligating the firms to disclose the terms of their business deals. The report urged the strengthening of regulations on IT giants, called platformers in Japanese, which operate or host search engines, online shopping sites and social media sites, among other things. The panel


By The Japan News
November 7, 2018