rump 2.0 foreign policy would not differ on China, India, may change on Ukraine: former Tr...

rump 2.0 foreign policy would not differ on China, India, may change on Ukraine: former Trump official Curtis 

Expert and former U.S. NSC, State Department official says increase of Indian-Americans in race is “coming of age” for community

As the U.S. elections increasingly look like a Trump v/s Biden rematch from 2020, U.S. Foreign policy will differ on certain issues like Russia and support to the U.N. depending on who wins, but there will be continuity on issues like China and the Indo-Pacific, says former Trump administration official Lisa Curtis.

Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a “Quad-Plus” conference in Manila, Ms. Curtis, who was earlier at Deputy Assistant to the U.S. President at the National Security Council (2017-2021) and is now the Director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Centre for a New American Security, said the presence of Indian-Americans in the fray is a “coming of age” for the Indian diaspora community.

 Do you think 2024 is going to see a 2020 election redux with a Biden versus Trump rematch?

 I think that’s the way it’s looking, even though I think the American electorate is not thrilled about these two choices. You hear people talk about President Biden’s age, you hear people talk about January 6 (2021) when it comes to President Trump and all of the charges and indictments against him. This might mean a lower voter turnout this year. When you have people disappointed with the choices, they may not bother showing up the polls. So that is a concern.

 You were a part of the earlier Trump administration. Would a possible Trump 2.0 be significantly different from what we saw then, as far as foreign policy goes?

 I don’t think I see a tremendously different foreign policy than what we saw in the first Trump administration. And I think if you if you look at some of the accomplishments with the first Trump administration, there would be a continuation of that. The Biden administration continued with the Indo Pacific strategic framework, which President Trump signed in 2018. And it drove the rest of the administration’s policy toward China and toward the Indo Pacific. There will be fierce US-China competition, and the continued building up of strategic alliances and partnerships with countries like Japan, Australia, India, the Philippines, etc. 

 How much would change?

 If you’re talking about a country like India, for example, I think that we would not see major changes. There’s been bipartisan support over the last 20 years, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, favouring building up the relationship with India, building up India’s capability so that it can play a stronger role in the Indo Pacific and help with that balancing with China. However on Ukraine, President Trump has made some statements which are worrisome for Europeans- calling on NATO partners to “pay their bills or step up on their own defence” and that the US would give an open door to Russia. So on that issue, I think there could be major differences depending on who wins, that could impact the global balance of power and the rules based order throughout the globe.

 The Trump administration was marked by it pulling out of conflicts externally, pulling out of UN related organisations like UNESCO, the Human Rights Council, pulling out of accords like the JCPOA with Iran, and the climate change protocols with the UN. Would that be repeated in a second term?

 I think the Trump inner circle, has this ‘America first’ attitude, to have a more isolationist view of the world, which could be concerning. For example, Japan, South Korea, major allies of the United States would be worried that the US might not be as dependable as an ally under a Trump administration. Japan in particular, is really increasing their role in the Indo Pacific, stepping up their own defence spending, capabilities, and taking more responsibility for the security of the Indo Pacific region. And things like that will matter to President Trump. If you’ve looked back at Trump 1.0 the first administration. You will see that there there certainly more nuances to the policy. He negotiated the Phase One of the trade deal in January 2020 and trade definitely will be a priority. He will want to protect US markets, US workers, and he will continue to see restrictions on technology, wanting to keep the US at the cutting edge. 

 In 2018, India did accept the Trump administration demand to zero out oil imports from Iran, but in 2022 refused to agree to the Biden administration’s initial demand to cut oil imports from Russia….What kind of expectations would the next US government have on future conflicts from India?

 I think the Biden administration has been incredibly patient with India on the issue of India support to Russia, you know, increasing its energy imports from Russia, taking a neutral stance at the UN and other such policies. And you also have the issue of the plot to assassinate Sikh activists in the United States…

 The alleged plot…

 Yes, alleged, and the fact that these two issues, have not really disrupted the US-India relationship says something about the foundation of that relationship and how much has been invested over the last several years. When it comes to the Trump administration, I think Iran is an issue he would be tough on. On Taiwan, there wasn’t any expectation that India would send warships or get involved militarily. I think there’s an understanding that well, India could provide diplomatic support to Taiwan, humanitarian support and may even allow the US some kind of basing or logistics support. With the Trump administration, I think it’s difficult to say. President Trump did have very high expectations from India on supporting Afghanistan. 

 How much could change in terms of foreign policy style- the surprise tweeting for example?

 Well people don’t really change their personalities overnight. So I think it probably would be a similar style, a little bit of unpredictability and some surprises here and there. To be sure many times there was a method to the madness, and many decisions [Mr. Trump took] had infact been thought through even if they were announced suddenly and appeared from the outside to be totally off the cuff.

 The election already has an Indian-American flavour, given Vice President Kamala Harris, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley have all been prominent. Does their presence affect ties with India?

 I think what they signify is that it is not unusual to have an Indian-American to vie for the top slot or to be the second any more, it’s become quite common. That’s a sign that the Indian American community has really come of age in the United States. When it comes to the bilateral relationship, there may be a tangible added comfort especially in people-to-people ties. But when it comes to the policies of the Republicans or the Democrats, I don’t think it matters as much.

Your email address will not be published.