New Delhi: US President Donald Trump’s attempt to pressure India on trade may be intended as a symbolic shot across New Delhi’s bow, but its inopportune timing threatens the broader political consequences.
The Trump administration notified Congress on Monday that it wants to scrap trade concessions for India, the largest beneficiary of the so-called generalized system of preferences that impacts $5.7 billion worth of goods.
The move affects just a fraction of India’s trade flows, yet it comes weeks before India’s national elections, and just as prime minister Narendra Modi’s government is trumpeting its foreign policy prowess and military strength following a stand-off with Pakistan.
Both Trump and Modi likely hope to isolate thorny trade issues from their geopolitical ties as both countries position themselves in Asia against an increasingly assertive China. But even assuming the strategic alliance remains intact, the world’s two largest democracies are probably still headed for a bout of turbulence.
Even if Modi doesn’t want to raise the temperature, “the discourse in this country has been that America needs India to balance China,” said Harsh Pant, an international relations professor at King’s College London. “And the question will be: Why is America doing this to India?"
Needling India on trade will have a “corrosive effect” on Modi’s views of the US and fits a pattern of Trump’s focus on narrow trade grievances at the expense of the broader strategic concerns, according to John Blaxland, head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University....