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Trump or Hillary, Who's Better for India?

File photos of Hillary Clinton during her trip to India and Donald Trump (Reuters)

File photos of Hillary Clinton during her trip to India and Donald Trump (Reuters)

Like in the West, many in India have strongly criticised Donald Trump's remarks on women, Muslims, immigration and what not.

Parikshit Luthra

The flamboyant and very outspoken Donald Trump is on course for a Republican nomination with 1238 delegates already under his belt. Democrat Hillary Clinton is 70 delegates short of the magic figure of 2383 required for a Democrat nomination. According to the New York Times, unless something extraordinary happens she will be the presumptive nominee after the primary in New Jersey on Tuesday.

Like in the West, many in India have strongly criticised Donald Trump's remarks on women, Muslims, immigration and what not. For long no one took him seriously, but now going by opinion polls he is a strong contender and most foreign policy experts and government officials would be cautious about what they say about him.

The unthinkable has become real but hopefully reality will not become a nightmare. With all it's flaws US is a society to admire. Hope 2016 will not change that [name]Salman Khurshid, former minister of external affairs [/name]

Probably many foreign policy experts and government officials would feel likewise, but at the end day you may just have to work with him.

So, if it is a Hillary vs Trump fight then who will serve India's interest better? We spoke to a number of foreign policy experts, politicians and government officials about this. Each one of them said that Donald Trump is an unknown entity whose foreign policies and capabilities are yet to be seen. Most Indian foreign ministers and government officials have had no interaction with the businessman. One government official could recall that Trump came to India to inaugurate the Trump Tower in Mumbai but beyond that no one could describe his association with India.

On the other hand, Indian leaders are very familiar with Hillary Clinton and her foreign policies. Therefore, the predictability and comfort quotient would be higher in the case of Hillary compared to her rival.

Shashi Tharoor, a top congress leader and a former minister of state for external affairs has met Hillary Clinton on several occasions. He said, "Hillary Clinton is a known entity. She has had a long association with India both as first lady and then as secretary of state. She has great empathy for India's interests. On the other Donald Trump is an unknown entity whose random statements may not turn out to be an accurate guide to the policies he will actually pursue."

Many feel that Trump is largely playing to a domestic audience and if elected president he will be a different man.

While Trump's tough stand against terrorism and Islamic State has been welcomed, there is a certain amount of worry about his statements on H1B visas and immigration. If Trump continues to take a hard line on immigration after being elected then that could have a negative impact on our software workers.

Till now the presumptive republican nominee's rhetoric has been protectionist, isolationist and often veering towards the extreme. He has often said that the international trade system is rigged against the US. Former Indian ambassador to the United States Meera Shankar said if Trump comes true on his election rhetoric, then there will be implications for India as well as the global economy.

Shankar, as an ambassador, has often interacted with Hillary Clinton and has also met Donald Trump at a social gathering. According to her Clinton comes across as a liberaliser, a realist and a pragmatist. She also admits that she only knows about Trump the businessman and can't comment much on his future foreign policies.

India is in a fortunate place. We enjoy bi-partisan support among republicans and democrats. Whoever is elected the policy would be to seek better relations with India [name]Meera Shankar[/name]

Indian government officials feel Trump is right now trying to appeal to the average Joe in the US. He wants to cash in on the anti-Washington and anti-establishment sentiment, but President Trump would be a different fish.

CNN International's Executive Editor Ram Ramgopal, who has vast experience covering Indo-US affairs, feels Trump's foreign policy positions have been all over the place. Though he also claimed that the US presidential hopeful could moderate his views once the primary season is over.

"Trump or Clinton, whoever ends up being president, won't be able to bring about comprehensive immigration reform all on their own. They will have to work with the legislature and Congress and that's going to be a long drawn out and difficult job," Ram said.

At the end of the day, India will have to work with whoever becomes president. Perhaps that's why no one in the Indian government is commenting on the White House race just yet. "I have no opinion. Let them get nominated first," Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh said when asked about his viewpoint.

For now, India is waiting and watching the Presidential race. If Hillary Clinton wins, we know where to begin but if it is Trump then we will have to explore, test waters and then move ahead. Hopefully, he will team up with advisers and a vice president who could guide him towards a better and more realistic foreign policy than what he is advocating today.


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