On December 8, Brookings India hosted a panel discussion on “American in Transition” featuring Strobe Talbott, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and President of the Brookings Institution; Shivshankar Menon, India’s former foreign secretary and national security adviser; and Rahul Bajaj, Chairman of the Bajaj Group. The discussion was moderated by Dhruva Jaishankar, Fellow for Foreign Policy at Brookings India. The panel discussion focused on the intricacies and process of the U.S. Presidential transition, the impact of the new administration on India-U.S. diplomatic and business relations. The discussion was preceded by the inauguration of the Kamalnayan Bajaj Conference Room and a working lunch.
America is arguably going through more than one transition at the moment, with respect to its leadership, its economy as well as its place in the world. The issue of the presidential transition is therefore crucial not only for America but also for the rest of the world, including India. This presidential transition is particularly unpredictable and policies will eventually be determined and influenced by Donald Trump’s choice of advisors. This can be a positive aspect since Trump doesn’t seem to have deep convictions about policy issues and is likely to rely on his close aides for advice. It is important to remember that this presidential transition is not just a transition from one administration to another or a transition from the Democrats to Republicans, but will require a transition in the President Elect himself from his campaign rhetoric to his governance style.
While Trump’s foreign policy stances are still uncertain, there was a general consensus among the discussants that the Indo-U.S. relationship is on a solid ground bilaterally and that there are no critical issues that present immediate threats to the relationship. Elements that affect these relations such as strategic congruence and economic complementarity already exist and therefore should not drastically change the dynamics of the Indo-U.S. relationship. However, there some elements that do affect the Indo-U.S. relationship such as the American policy on AfPak, policy on China and the global economic environment. The Trump administration is going to witness a fragmented global economy, near-scrapping of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by Trump and a comparatively inward looking United States. Trump’s isolationist tendencies are also likely to result in the withdrawal of U.S. presence from the Asia-Pacific, both economically and strategically. This can open up significant space for India in the region. One can also expect to see some improvement in the U.S.-Russia relationship with indirect benefits for India. Therefore, how India deals with this changing geo-political scenario will be critical to Indian interests and to Indo-U.S. relations.
-by Shruti Godbole
Jhoomar Mehta, a research intern at Brookings India, contributed to this report.
Like other products of the Brookings Institution India Center, this report is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues. The views are of the author(s). Brookings India does not have any institutional views.
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