The Republican party policy platform released on Monday, the opening day of its convention, called for protection of all religious communities in India from “violence and discrimination”.
The platform, much like a party’s election manifesto in India, skipped specifics, but could be reflecting concerns over incidents of religious intolerance.
Both Republicans and Democrats have taken them up with India — most famously by President Barack Obama in his Siri Fort speech in 2010, and then a few days later, on his return to Washington DC.
A semi-congressional body, largely aligned with religious conservatives in the Republican party, has long been trying to send a delegation to India to assess the situation.
But India has pushed back, arguing it is dealing with them on its own and is willing to discuss them with the US as part of their ongoing governmental dialogue.
The platform is considered a preview of the nominee’s administration, policies and vision, if elected. Platform 2016 is what a Trump administration could look like.
Could India, then, expect to face more heat from the US under Trump on religious freedom? The platform, which may indicate so, also made some assuring observations.
The party policy platform calls India a “geopolitical ally”, which may be heartening to some Indians even though New Delhi is usually wary of such words of endearments and indications of an alliance.
It also refers to India as a “strategic trading partner”, encouraging it “to permit expanded foreign investment and trade, the key to rising living standards for those left out”.
That, in fact, is a nod to a section of the US industry that has long pressured India to speed up market reforms and, crucially, align its intellectual property rights regime with Washington’s interests.
If this sounds confusing, Trump may have willed it thus to, typically, let the ambiguity accord him the flexibility to traipse out of positions he can no longer explain or defend.
The platform hints at problems in normalising relations “as long as any citizen of Pakistan can be punished for helping the war on terror”. The reference is to the doctor who is believed to have helped the US hunt down al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Shakil Afridi remains in jail despite public and private pressure on Islamabad by Washington DC to release him.