India

Election outcome will not alter bilateral ties: Analysts

United States presidential elections have always been of interest to India but the ongoing contest has probably captured the attention of Indians the most, even as analysts predict a continuity in ties under a new US administration.

Indian television channels have covered the race intensively this year, including broadcasting the debates live. There have been a number of references to India through the campaign. US presidential candidate Donald Trump even professed his love for all Hindus - the majority community in India - while speaking in Hindi in an outreach to the Indian-American community, whose members continue to have strong links to India.

Still, many in India are more comfortable with the idea of Mrs Hillary Clinton in the White House.

"This election is catching a lot of attention (in India). There are so many comments and WhatsApp messages being circulated. A lot of my friends have strong views on the US elections," said Mr Abhinav Sahaya, 32, a Delhi-based entrepreneur. "I am rooting for Hillary not just because it will be good for India but for who she is."

Ties between the two countries have grown in recent years, particularly in security and defence with the US naming India a major defence partner last year.


Activists from the right-wing organisation Hindu Sena celebrating US presidential candidate Donald Trump's 70th birthday in New Delhi, India, in June. Even though Mr Trump has struck a chord with such nationalist groups with his promises to fight Islamic terrorism, many others in India prefer Mrs Clinton to become president. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

 

Bilateral trade between the two countries is over US$100 billion (S$138.5 billion). Both are also wary of the growing assertiveness of China. India has a festering border issue with China, while the US has been alarmed by China's stance in the South China Sea territorial disputes.

"Irrespective of who gets elected, it is doubtful if (US') India policy will change. We have seen continuity through several presidents. The policy is well established and the basic direction is not going to change," said former India foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.

"We know very little about Trump. For India, it is more reassuring if Hillary comes to power. She comes with a very strong legacy of pro-India policy."

Mrs Clinton's association with India goes back to the 1990s. Her visit to India in 1995 as First Lady set the ball rolling on a phase of improved ties between India and the US. She is said to have convinced then President Bill Clinton to have a fresh look at India.

As a senator, Mrs Clinton was co-chair of the Senate India Caucus and has been on numerous visits to India. Mr Trump made his only visit in 2014.

Mr Trump remains a mystery for most Indians, even though he has struck a chord with Hindu nationalists and has promised that India and US would be "best friends" if he is elected.

STABLE RELATIONSHIP

Irrespective of who gets elected, it is doubtful if (US') India policy will change. We have seen continuity through several presidents. The policy is well established and the basic direction is not going to change.

FORMER INDIA FOREIGN SECRETARY LALIT MANSINGH

For India, the next US president's approach to rival Pakistan is also important. While Pakistan remains important for the US, Mr Trump had said during the early part of the campaign that India is the only country that can act as a check to Pakistan. Mrs Clinton has expressed concerns about Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands.

"We expect the next administration to facilitate technology transfer, expect cooperation in combating terrorism and that defence and security cooperation will further deepen," said Dr Chintamani Mahapatra, political analyst and professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Still for middle-class Indians, the key issues remain easy travel to the US for studies and getting work visas.

"Many of my friends who work in the US in the financial sector have been really worried about what will happen (with their visas)," said Mr Sahaya.

While rhetoric against outsourcing and foreigners taking jobs is a constant in American elections, Mrs Clinton has said she would punish US companies that send jobs out of the country, while Mr Trump has spoken of scrapping the H-1B work visa, used by Indian software companies to send their engineers to the US.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Election outcome will not alter bilateral ties: Analysts'. Print Edition | Subscribe