USA And India Have To Treat Each Other As Equal Partners To Achieve World Peace And Prosperity
Donald Trump has sharp business instincts and he is a very tough negotiator. However he has more than met his match in Narendra Modi, who has “business” flowing in his veins instead of blood. In addition he is a tougher negotiator, a fact openly acknowledged by Trump himself.
The sharpness of President Trump’s business personality been felt by most of the Countries like China, UK, Canada and even the whole of Europe while doing trade and business with the US. However probably following his instincts, Trump has behaved with India in a very different manner. This is quite unlike previous “pompous “ presidents, all of whom failed to “dictate their terms “ to India.
No wonder most of the American and European journalists and economists were quite puzzled that though India refused to go in for any Trade Deal as wanted by America,even then Trump was more than friendly and in fact embraced Modi like a brother. While many TV anchors in India were anguished : “What did India get from this otherwise spectacular show and why didn’t the trade deal come through?”
Coming to the point on why even Mr Trump couldn’t strike a trade deal despite hinting to his voters that he would strike one with India, Aparna Pande, Director at the Hudson Institute says: “It is difficult for two populist, nationalist and protectionist administrations to resolve trade issues, most of which have been brewing for a few decades. Instead of trying for something big, which is always difficult, maybe the two sides should try to resolve some of the small issues first and build the trust that will resolve the bigger areas of friction. Here the strategic relationship can be used as an example: India and the US found it easier to start off with military exercises before signing logistical agreements and finally moving to Quad…Both countries view each other as natural, strategic and long term partners.”
It is very clear that while America needs to export its high valued goods, the Indian market will be made accessible to it only if it is ready to import Services from India. Both President Trump and PM Modi while negotiating are thus giving all the leeway to each other. Doing so, the economy of the respective countries may not get an immediate deal which both strong nationalist and popular leaders desire. However these friendly negotiations are slowly expanding the scope of trade and strategic agreements, while their bureaucrats and ministers are busy in ironing out the in evitable mutual conflicts of business interests.
As per Dani Rodrik, a Professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, has earlier quoted as saying: “Trump seems to be the archetypal businessman with mercantilist instincts…Open your market for me to do business in it, but you can have access to mine only on my terms.”. Though it seems Trump has instinctively jettisoned this kind of tactics with Modi. Instead he has been doing what should be done — treating India as an equal partner and thus going in for a level playing status in doing business. President Trump, has not extended such courtesy to many countries he’s currently doing business with. No wonder, America is having the worst of business relations with Europe, China and is having even some regular niggles with Canada.
Michael Kugelman, a top South Asia analyst and India watcher at the Woodrow Wilson Center puts it right: “Both sides want a deal, but both sides also need to be careful. These are two tough negotiators with populist politics, and neither will want to agree to a deal that could be perceived as imperiling jobs at home. For Trump, there’s a particular urgency in getting a deal before the presidential election. He wouldn’t want to go into the election having gotten a trade deal with China, a top US rival, while coming up empty with a key partner like India.”
India enjoys the confidence of America as being the “partner-to-be and the market-to-be for future”. The US doesn’t want to rush into things without both sides completely satisfied before the formal trade deal gets stamped. Perhaps that’s the biggest business scoring point, currently.
But not missing the point, what top South Asia analysts in the US say is, the “positive tone of bureaucracy will be detrimental to get this trade deal and many facets of Indo-US relations put in high gear”.
While President Trump said a “fair balance of trade between the two countries will be the hallmark of new trade ties,” another senior official was quoted as saying, “the trade and economic relationship with India is critically important to the US, and I think also access to the US market is critical to the Indian government…We do want to make sure that we get this balance right. We want to address a bunch…of concerns, and we’re not quite there yet.”
It’s self-explanatory and the tone is being set right. Perhaps, this is not the right moment and India needs to thrash out many hurdles before it joins the US as a friend and equal trading partner. Sooner than later, it (trade deal) is bound to happen as in the current global dynamics, India emerges as the most “viable and honest trade partner” for the US. In return India, refusing to be a dumping ground, will insist on being the manufacturing hub and markets of many American businesses and goods from its soil.
This will require a deft economic outlook and an open-minded, yet dignified approach in dealing by both the Indian Trade and Commerce Ministry and its counterpart US trade department.
China already has a worsening trade relations with USA, a process that started last year, and now the deadly coronavirus is shutting all doors of global business deals With it. Many US and European companies are pulling out of China, and they have an opportunity in this global health crisis to seize the moment and shift their manufacturing to India. Both America and India have thus an equal opportunity to provide each other with what is needed. In addition Americans who see China as a potent threat will feel safer when they see that India will easily balance China not only economically, but also in security matters in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region.
PM Modi’s direct involvement in trade with US President Trump, who understands full well that who he’s dealing with (a tough negotiator), gives the fair balance of business in offing. Without compromising on the “national stakes and genuine concerns” in the field of agriculture supplies, medical supplies and many consumer items, a consensus can be built around the big picture objective to “equally benefit the oldest and largest democracies.”
Prof Walter Andersen, a former State Department official and ex-Director of South Asia Centre at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC, says: “The tempo has been set and the message is clear to bureaucracy from both President Trump and PM Modi to get it working.”
Andersen told The Sunday Guardian: “Mainly, it was a sympathetic ear from the President. That translates into more serious attention from the bureaucracy on both sides. Bureaucracies always have a powerful role on policy as they shape implementation (and can delay or stop if so inclined). I heard the President at his South Carolina rally on Friday say he got along greatly with PM Modi and felt he (Modi) was working great things for India. Also that the Republicans are putting together a major effort to get Indian-American vote in the forthcoming elections.”
But the Wilson Centre’s South Asia expert also said: “There are certainly things about the relationship that bother both sides, with bureaucratic issues high on that list. While the issue of the leaders’ chemistry has figured so prominently in stories about this relationship for quite some time, it’s important to move beyond that and focus on strengthening institutional and bureaucratic chemistry as well. That’s the type of chemistry that matters the most.”
As Kugelman points out: “My sense is that at some point in the coming months, something will give. There have been so many high-level trade talks, and plenty of goodwill has been built up. If we give it some more time, I imagine the two sides will be ready to pull the trigger at some point before November.”
The non-security side of the relationship has a whole lot of potential, especially if you stay away from the core tension points. Says Kugelman: “Energy, for example, has potential written all of it. US energy exports to India have surged, and India clearly has a desire for more. Cyber is another huge area. There’s a lot of best practices and other inputs to share. Finally, with coronavirus now the biggest story in international affairs, medical and scientific exchanges leading to cooperation on managing disease epidemics can be a key area to look at.”
Adds Pande, “The India-US relationship today is more than personal chemistry of leaders or officials. Over the last two decades there has been a growth in bonds between the two civilian and military bureaucracies but these take a longer time. We need to encourage more engagement, more meetings and more joint trainings and interactions of the bureaucracies so that the relationship is institutionalized.”
What Aoarna Pande should add that things will just collapse, the moment the American bureaucracy shows any behavior that smacks of “ big brother attitude “. They must remember that Unlike NATO, India is not a junior ally. When USA had just come into existence, in comparative terms Indian economy was bigger than todays American Economy.