Hillary factor in India ties

Election cock fight to watch

Kalyani Shankar, in the Statesman, 12 June, 2016

Hillary Clinton (AFP)

(Note: Possibility can always become probability and then reality. Only in that sense we can now say, that Hilary Clinton may become the first woman president in US, as there is so much  male domination and antipathy towards women in US. While Donald Trump has been an unknown factor till recently, he has also been an unpredictable person swinging from one extreme to another in his attitudes towards Muslims, immigrants, women and foreign policy. So while a vast majority of voters are comfortable with Clinton, their prejudices against her are quite active together with the American urge to go for a thriller movie hero like Trump. So the fight is going to be between adventurous militarism and peaceful coexistence. It is also going to be a multi cornered fight among: 1. RSS-Hindutva-Modi fans in US, 2. American colour-caste system causing friction between whites ands blacks (14% of Americans are blacks) and  3. thirdly  true inclusive development and Modi brand of divisive, Sub ka VikasJames KottorThere are going to be so many imponderables in Clinton-Trump presidential contest. In any case what we are going to see may be an exciting  thriller movie, Trump blasting away all the time and Hilary in defensive role  most of the time, waiting for a chance to deliver a killer shot. james kottoor, editor.)

Will Hillary Clinton become the first woman president of the United States? When I lived in Washington in the late 1990s, I often posed this question to many Americans and the reply was that they would rather have an African American President than a woman. They did choose Barack Obama in 2008.

Is it now the turn of a woman? Hillary, a Washington insider, will be pitted against Republican nominee Donald Trump, a rank outsider. When Trump announced his intention to run for the presidency many people laughed at the idea but today he is laughing at them.

Hillary has won the nomination of the Democrats, the first woman to do so for the Presidential polls. This in itself is a record. She narrowly missed it in her 2008 bid. The New York Times said of her, "As a politician’s wife, first lady, senator and secretary of state — and as a two-time candidate for president — Mrs. Clinton, 68, has redefined the role of women in American politics each time she has reinvented herself.”

Knowing the problems ahead, Hillary said in an interview this week: “I really believe our system is probably the most challenging in the world,” adding “If you’re a prime minister, you’re chosen by your peers. If you’re president, you run statewide, but it’s usually with the backing of a party and you don’t have to raise the money to run.” But, she added, “Women candidates all face the same scrutiny, and questions about ourselves so there are similarities.”

Now that she has won the nomination she has many challenges to face. She has questions to answer, face criticisms from her opponents and also some skeletons in her cupboard might tumble out. The most important challenge is to defeat her Republican opponent Donald Trump.

For some reason many Indians are batting for Hillary. After all Trump is an unknown entity. She brings to the table not only familiarity and friendship but also the Indian Americans have invested in her by donating millions of dollars for her election campaign. Recently they launched an organisation named ‘Indian-Americans for Hillary Clinton’ (IAHC). Hillary’s campaign chief John Podesta claimed on the occasion that she will take relations with India to a new level and better economic and strategic ties with India will anchor the U.S. in the region. He also said a Democratic administration under Clinton will have a significant presence of Indian Americans.

Now India has moved much closer to the US, what would be the impact on Indo-US relations if Hillary wins? The Clintons have visited India many times. She made her first visit in 1995 when she was the First Lady and was fascinated by India. She returned in 1997 with daughter Chelsea for the funeral of Mother Teresa. She was the one who made Clinton take interest after India launched its economic reforms.

Hillary has walked that extra mile for India. She blocked more American aid to Pakistan and blamed Islamabad for sheltering Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. It was the Bill Clinton administration which initiated a de-hyphenating of its India-Pakistan policy in the late 1990s. Hillary chaired the India caucus in the US Senate and urged India to play a proactive role in South East Asia by not just “Looking East” but by “acting East”, which phrase Modi has borrowed.

In her memoir “Hard Choices”, Hillary said a key aspect of US policy during her stint as Secretary of State was bringing India “more fully into the Asian-Pacific political scene”, especially as a counterweight to China. During her much publicised visit to Chennai in 2011 she said “ Much of the history of the 21st century will be written in Asia, which, in turn, will be influenced by the partnership between the US and India and its relationship with neighbours.” As Secretary of State she has weighed in favour of India in rebalancing America’s foreign policy. There was close cooperation in high tech areas particualrly in defence and space. India and the US launched a ministerial-level strategic dialogue in July 2009 .

While she was involved in the decision that denied Modi a visa a decade ago things have moved beyond the visa days. His address to the US Congress this week was Modi’s sweet revenge when he won a standing ovation from Senators and Congressmen. Secondly, she is supposed to have contacts with many NGOs which are working in India and the Modi government is hostile to some of them. This too could be overcome once she becomes the President. Hillary has been talking of immigration reforms and told an Indian audience during her campaign that outsourcing benefited many parts of the United States.

If elected, Hillary may continue Obama’s India policy.The membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, India’s bid for UN Security Council seat, partnership in climate change, mutual economic cooperatiion and military ties are on the table for improving Indo-US ties. Both nations also have a common interest in countering China's rising military and economic might. Defense is a particularly promising area as India is the second-biggest buyer of American arms. Yet despite the progress, constraints remain and economic disputes also linger.

Hillary or Trump, there is a bipartisan consensus in the US in favour of strong India-US ties. In view of some stability in the Indo–US ties, the positives and negatives in our present relationship are likely to continue. Hillary or Trump, New Delhi is willing to deal with either.

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