US Presidential election race: What India has at stake

  • Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jan 31, 2016 13:56 IST
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi. (Gurinder Osan/HT Photo)

Though India and the US always hold a good summit, there are few fans of the Obama administration in New Delhi. Obama’s desire to reduce US involvement in world affairs, in their view, is a key reason the Taliban are back in Afghanistan, the Islamic State is running rampant, and China is taking over the South China Sea. A US president who reverses this is what India is hoping to see next year.

For South Block looking for a US president who would seek to restore some global balance, says Teresita Schaffer, ex-diplomat and author of the blog, “Hillary would be the best. She already cares about India. But Jeb Bush would be okay as well.” Even among the other candidates, Rubio, Chris Christie or John Kasich, says Daniel Twining, analyst at the German Marshall Fund, “are all internationalists… who would be good friends of India.”

The average Indian, however, may be more interested in a US president who keeps the “golden door” open for immigrants, students and temporary hi-tech workers. They would also be reassured if the White House has a person who upholds traditional liberal democratic views on religious minorities and multiculturalism as a whole.

The populists in both parties, whether Trump or Sanders, have been the most vocal against migrants. Trump has targeted Muslims and Mexicans, Sanders H-1B visa workers. But their rhetoric would worry migratory birds the most. India, however, gets only a passing mention by even the most extreme candidates. Ultimately, says Twining, “the fact that India, unlike China, will not be an election issue should be reassuring to New Delhi.”

The third Indian constituency, if you want, are the Indian-Americans. They are broadly concerned with the direction of US society and economy as a whole, with some aspects of the Indo-US relationship thrown in. Says Sanjay Puri, head of the US-India Political Action Committee, “Indian-Americans tend to be more Democrats than Republicans and it has not changed much this election cycle, especially with Clinton running as she has long-standing relationships with the Indian-American community.” But, he notes, no candidate is allergic to Indians. “Each candidate has a support base in the Indian-American community.”

The community’s political profile in US elections, however, has never been higher. It included one actual if doomed NRI candidate, Bobby Jindal. One more, Nikki Haley, who is being seen as a vice-presidential possible and another, Kamala Harris, likely to be the first Indian-origin senator.

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