By Nitin G. Raut
The U.S. Presidential Election 2016 has seen a stunning victory of the Republican candidate Donald Trump leaving the Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton profoundly disappointed and devastated. Few expected Trump to win especially after his un-gentlemanly boasts of philandering escapades. Clinton camp had taken the victory for granted especially when pre-poll opinion surveys had predicted Clinton victory in a neck and neck race.
In the changing dynamics of power equations, the emergence of China as a potential challenger to the U.S. supremacy in the Asia-Pacific Region and the Indian Ocean Region has not escaped the attention of the American voters who are seeing a steady decline of the U.S. Power.
Moreover, the mature American voter always prefers to judicially alternate between the Democratic and Republic parties. After two terms of Obama’s Democratic Administration lacklustre in many ways - even the charisma of Hillary Clinton or the prospect of Hillary Clinton being the First U.S. Women President did not sway the U.S. voters.
The American voters wanted a change to the Right. This trend is very discernible even in Europe where the right is slowly emerging as a force to reckon with Clinton represented the Establishment with incumbency baggage. All said and done Donald Trump had a clean political slate which was his asset. It is also in a way of the Americans rejecting dynastic politics in the U.S.
In the sphere of foreign policy Donald Trump has his task cut out. His priorities and policies are really not articulated. Even if his style of leadership is considered, there are enough checks and balance in the system for Trump to really withdraw the U.S. from its global role.
In the Asia-Pacific Region, China is playing a devious role. Given its growing economic and military power, it is clandestinely protecting rogue states like North Korea and is using it as a thorn in the U.S. side. Seemingly supporting U.N. sanctions on paper China for all practical purpose is propping up the North Korean nuclear programme, which at an appropriate time will be used as a proxy client state against the United States and unleashed against the United States.
In South Asia, the story is the same of China's double standards in its policies towards Pakistan. China has consistently vetoed the U.N.S.C. bid to brand the infamous Pak-supported terrorists, on the species technical plea thereby clearly endorsing Pak as a State sponsoring terrorism.
China is seeking to neutralise the Philippines, a long-time U.S. ally and has exacted a promise from Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte that he will not support the Permanent Court of Arbitration's rejection of China's claim to the Spratly Islands and the South China Sea.
For Donald Trump, China is going to be the biggest challenge especially when China together with nuclear-armed Pak and North Korea are dangerous destabilisers in Asia & Pacific.
Trump’s campaign option to allies like South Korea to bear an additional financial burden of maintaining US 28,000 troops and an airbase or that the US will reduce security arrangement with South Korea, is perhaps more of election rhetoric. Trump’s grip of foreign policy is unknown but his foreign policy advisors will barely consider such an option. In simple terms it will encourage China to wean away U.S. allies and that reality will not be lost to Trump once in the White House.
In West Asia, Donald Trump is an acknowledged as the supporter of Israel which is a pivot of the U.S. foreign policy in West Asia. But the volatile West Asian politics has its own dilemmas. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are ranged against Syrian President Basheer Assad who in turn is fighting a bloody battle against ISIS whom both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are also opposed. In the complex West Asian imbroglio, the Palestinian unrest fomented by the Hamas has its own challenge but Trump will have enough expertise to control West Asia and safeguard the State of Israel.
Trump’s election in a way indicates a worldwide trend towards the Right. The co-existence of cultural identities calls for healthy respect for each other values. The swamping of Europe by immigrants from West Asia has raised justifiable fear of European cultural identity being submerged. It does not mean anti-minority-ism.
To raise the spectre of neo-fascism because of the rise of the Right is to ignore the religious bigotry that is exploiting the democratic values to destroy open Society. Europe is an example of this type of religious intolerance. Upholding national identities does not amount to a repudiation of democracy and open Society. It only abhors the attempt to divide Societies by claiming separate identity in name of minority-ism.
President-elect Donald Trump is a Conservative Republican and is cast in the mould of conservatives like Ronald Reagan and the late Senator Barry Goldwater. Contrary to the common belief the Conservative Republicans are not radical extremists but are pragmatic and will frame a judicious doctrine to deal with China. It was Ronald Reagan who induced the Soviet Union into a arms race and triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Trump Doctrine will not be able to replicate the Reagan Doctrine against China but Trump's election is definitely a signal to China that it has to reckon with a New America under the Trump Administration. Trump will be no pushover.
Trump has targeted China in his campaigning and had announced 45% tariff on the import of Chinese goods. While it may not be implemented it is also an indication that Trump realises that China is using the U.S. capital to challenge the US and undermine its global security role. This by itself is a significant indicator of Trump’s realisation of the threat China poses. The fear of US isolationism is unfounded as U.S. simply cannot be a silent spectator to the global churning.
On India Donald Trump is perhaps the first U.S. President who directly appealed to Hindu constituency in America and indeed spoke glowingly of them as “amazing entrepreneurs”. However, Trump’s outspoken views about terrorism is what India will have to watch. Will he turn the pressure on Pak? The geo-political compulsions have their own way of determining foreign policy. In this context, it is unlikely that Trump will let of Pak but to what degree it will work would remain to be seen. If Trump's indications on China’s threat are to factored, the China-Pak axis may well gravitate Trump towards India in concert with the ASEAN, Japan and Australia. In fact contrary to the popular belief, the Indo-US relations have always been more mature, pragmatic and realistic under Republican Administrations.
Trump is not so hostile to Russian President Vladimir Putin. India can leverage its policy as it has historical ties with Russian and has moved far ahead in its ties with the U.S. symbolised by Indo-US Nuclear Deal. Trump’s likely foreign policy group include Stephen Hadley, former National Security Advisor to former President George Bush and Architect of Indo-US Nuclear Deal.
The others like retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, who do not believe in “Good” and “Bad” terrorism and would like the terror groups to be dealt with firmly. There is, therefore, not going to be any let up against ISIS under the Trump Administration.