Trump unnerves Asia but India could forge closer ties

Some Asian nations are watching anxiously as Donald Trump prepares to take up the presidency, but for at least one major power in the region, India, the changing of the guard in Washington could strengthen ties.

During a brutal election campaign, where Trump’s rhetoric on foreign partners was overwhelmingly negative, he was largely positive about India, or at least its Hindu majority, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

When he courted Indian-American voters at a rally in New Jersey in mid-October, he said, “There won’t be any relationship more important to us.” He praised Modi, savvy in using social media, as a “great man” for championing bureaucratic reforms and economic growth. There are other hints that Trump is well-disposed toward India. He has done a lot of business there. A Washington Post analysis of Trump’s pre-election financial disclosure found that of his 111 international business deals, the highest number 16 were in India.

He stirred controversy last week over potential conflicts of interest by meeting with three Indian business partners who are building a Trump-branded luxury apartment complex in the city of Pune.

On Wednesday, he selected South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants, to be US ambassador to the United Nations, the first woman tapped for a Cabinet-level post in his administration. Haley has no foreign policy experience.

It remains a matter of conjecture how any of this will shape the approach taken by a Trump administration when he takes office January 20.

But Lisa Curtis at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank said it was “easy to envision” the US and India working closer on counter-terrorism.

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