US elections: Indian PM Modi congratulates Trump, saying he hopes to take India-US ties to new heights

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated US President-elect Donald Trump in a message on Twitter. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated Mr Donald Trump on being elected the 45th president of the United States.

In a message on Twitter, Mr Modi wrote: "We look forward to working with you closely to take India-US bilateral ties to a new height. We appreciate the friendship you have articulated towards India during your campaign."

India's leading industry body has also congratulated Mr Trump on his win, even as it expressed hope that Indian pharmaceutical products would gain better access to the United States amid fears of greater protectionism under a Trump administration.

The Confederation of Indian Industry said it looked forward to working with Mr Trump on critical issues affecting India-US trade.

"We hope that challenges relating to mobility of skilled labour, market access for pharmaceutical products from India, and for financial service institutions and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) will be addressed," it said in a statement.

Stock markets in India opened on a weak note not just on the news of Mr Trump's lead in the presidential race but also on the back of the Indian government's decision to demonetise 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee currency notes in a move against corruption.

Concerns remain that Mr Trump's tough stance on immigration and possible protectionist agenda could hit Indian companies, particularly those in outsourcing.

During the campaign, Mr Trump has spoken of scrapping the H-1B work visa, used by Indian software companies to send their engineers to the US.

"He is an unknown quantity. He could cause troubles when it comes to visas and when it comes to trade. It will be protectionist," said former Indian ambassador to the US Naresh Chandra.

But Mr Trump's ratings remained high among India's Hindu nationalists groups which support him for his anti-Islam rhetoric.

The Hindu Sena, a little known Hindu right-wing outfit that had earlier gained publicity for holding Hindu prayers for a Trump victory, celebrated his win even before it was declared.

Members of the small but controversial outfit gathered in Central Delhi and celebrated by holding up placards saying "India loves Donald Trump" for television cameras.

India and the US share a strong relationship and have been drawing closer given China's assertiveness in Asia. Trade between the two countries is above US$100 billion (S$139 billion) annually.

Analysts do not expect the general direction of ties between the two countries to change considering there is bipartisan support from the Republicans and Democrats for India.

While India had a comfortable working relationship with Mrs Hillary Clinton, Mr Modi, who has made close ties with the US a priority, would look to strike up a good working relationship with Mr Trump. India would also be looking for support to counter Pakistan, which has not clamped down on terror groups targeting India.

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