In US report, Trump scores big on ties with India, graded ‘B+’

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a leading US think tank on foreign policy, has graded President Donald Trump’s handling of ties with India as one of his successes, along with his dealings with China and Saudi Arabia, and his efforts to normalize relations with North Korea.

“The Trump administration has maintained the success story of US-India relations initiated by George W. Bush,” the report authored for CFR by Robert Blackwill, said, comparing this administration to Bush’s, which is often cited as a watershed term in bilateral ties on account of the India-US civil nuclear deal, which ended India’s nuclear isolation.

The report released Monday graded Trump “B+” for India, the highest the president scored, as he did also for China, Saudi. Afghanistan and Syria; “C” for Iran and trade, his pet project; “D” for European security; and tanked with “F” for climate change, US alliances, Russia, policy processes and character.

The report, “Trump’s Foreign Policies Are Better Than They Seem”, argued that the President’s action may “seem rash, ignorant and chaotic”, and he may seem determined to both dominate the world and withdraw from it, but “some of his individual foreign policies are substantially better than his opponents assert”.

President Trump got high marks for India for, one, his South Asia Policy that “accords primacy to India”; two, clearing the sale of advance weapons systems such as unmanned aerial vehicles; and, third, and finally, for his “decision to treat India on par with NATO allies where strategic technology release is concerned”.

Blackwill, a former US ambassador to India, also noted,“New Delhi has, accordingly, responded with bold initiatives of its own.”

For instance, he argued that while India had not “not entirely endorsed” Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, it has “has applauded the strategy’s declared vision” or a free and open Indo-Pacific region, a concept first laid out by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The former diplomat also noted that India was “quietly—and sometimes not so quietly— begun to cooperate militarily with the United States in significant ways even in peacetime”.

The report also cited the signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (OMCASA) last September after the inaugural 2+2 ministerial engagement, which the Obama administration had failed to finalize.

Differences persist between the two countries, the report pointed out, on issues such as Russia, Iran and H-1B visas. And on trade. It cited the Trump administration’s intention to terminate duty-free import of certain Indian goods.

In conclusion, however, Blackwill said, “The President deserves credit for promoting strategic ties with India in a sustained manner”.

First Published: Apr 15, 2019 23:27 IST

Updated: April 16, 2019 — 2:24 am