India newspapers: Would US remain a friend under Donald Trump?

A man reading a newspaper ahead of the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, in New Delhi, India, on Jan 20, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished US president Donald Trump the best in "leading USA to greater achievements in the coming years", saying he was looking forward to working with Mr Trump amid Indian concerns about US protectionism.

"Looking forward to working with President @realDonaldTrump to further deepen India-US ties & realise the full potential of our cooperation," tweeted Mr Modi, who was among the first world leaders to react to Mr Trump's inauguration on Friday (Jan 20).

"Strength of the India-USA strategic partnership lies in our shared values and common interests," he wrote.

Separately, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee hoped for an early visit from Mr Trump and his wife Melania to visit India.

Mr Modi has made closer ties with the US a priority since he came to power in 2014, as he sought greater investments into India, encouraging American firms to set up manufacturing units in India as part of his "Make in India" programme.

Now Indian newspapers wondered whether the US under Mr Trump would continue to be a friend of India.

The Times of India newspaper noted on its front page that Mr Trump's "aggressively protectionist speech" should "send a chill down the backs of Indian companies -particularly in the tech space -as well as the legions of Indians who have nursed dreams of living and working in America".

Another headline in the newspaper said: "Daddy of dealmakers in, but will he really be India's friend?"

"America First President," The Indian Express newspaper calls Mr Trump in its main headline, while warning "India must prepare for his buy-American-hire-American protectionism".

India and the US, which share a good relationship, have been drawing closer with tighter cooperation in defence and security amid the growing assertiveness of China in the region.

Still, Indian concerns over a Trump presidency remain, with India's outsourcing industry worried about curbs on the H-1B non-immigrant visa programme that is used to send Indian workers to the US. The new US leader said last year he would end the visa programme which he said was "unfair to our workers".

Analysts said that India would have to adjust to new American policies.

Mr C. Raja Mohan, Director of Carnegie India, Delhi, writing in The Indian Express noted Mr Trump "has delivered a stinging criticism of globalisation and the much cherished American leadership of the global order".

"As Trump's America turns inward and redefines its role in the world, India must limit the many negative consequences to its current economic engagement with the United States. At the same time, it must seize the new opportunities for strategic cooperation with Washington by shedding past inhibitions," he wrote.

Some pointed out that the Trump administration had not yet revealed its policy on Afghanistan or Pakistan, two key areas for India, while noting similarities between Mr Modi and Mr Trump.

"Their personality profile is very similar. Their approach to politics is similar. They are both outsiders (to the system), populist in approach and both talk of making country great. They may have great chemistry," said former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.

"India's economic growth will be an attraction for the Trump administration and the defence relationship promises to continue. But US focus is going to be on China, Russia... West Asia," he added.

Amid protests in other countries, right wing outfit Hindu Sena, which had earlier offered prayers for Mr Trump's win, held early celebrations for his Friday (Jan 20) inauguration in Delhi, garlanding his photograph with marigolds.

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