The recent US mid-term congressional election results need India and the Narendra Modi government to recalibrate their strategies on how to deal with Uncle Sam’s politics.
As against a widely expected Republican sweep, the GOP (Grand Old Party) is struggling to even get control of the House, having already lost the Senate.
This is largely because of the deep divide within the party, with a sharp schism developing between those who back Donald Trump, and those who back more traditional and middle-of-the-road politicians.
Trump has been more pro-India than almost any previous president, but he is now increasingly seen as damaged goods by large sections of his own Republican party. This is why the party fared far poorer than it had expected.
If you can’t win convincingly even when an unpopular president is at the helm and inflation is sky-high, there is something wrong with your internal dynamics and ability to get out your voters.
While we always knew that Trump was a poor human being and self-centred, not to speak of whimsical and cantankerous in policy-making, we believed that he can be helpful in achieving our geopolitical goals.
Now, that is no longer certain, even if Trump actually becomes the official Republican party nominee in 2024. The Republicans are more likely to lose than win.
The broader trend in US politics, at least on the Republican side, is a move towards the political centre, something that has not yet happened in the Democratic party.
If this assumption is correct, the Democrats will continue to tilt Leftwards in 2024, even as the Republicans move towards the Centre and lose the election in the process.
For any party to win, its Centre and extremes must at least be in broad electoral alignment, not fighting along fault lines. The Democrats may tilt further Left as the US economy may not be in good shape in the run-up to 2024.
This presents problems for India, for historically the Republicans have been friendlier to India than the Democrats.
The best outcome for India before the 2024 elections will be for Trump to retire from the contest and ask his diehard supporters to back a winnable Republican candidate, no doubt with some backstage deals in his favour.
If the Republicans, however, continue to self-destruct, India needs to do three things.
First, maintain equidistance between the Trump and anti-Trump politicians in the Republican party.
Second, cultivate more politicians in the Democratic party who are not ultra-Left, and work with them.
Three, launch an outreach to the US public, neutral media and key politicians on both sides of the aisle, and explain India stands on various issues.
We need to point out gently that official negativity in mainstream media and even some Indian-origin politicians is specifically Hinduphobic, and hence also India-phobic.
It is a tough balancing act, and so far no Indian government has shown the ability to address US public opinion with any degree of competence.
Most importantly, India needs to slowly begin distancing itself from Trump, but without actually saying so. He is unlikely to win in 2024. If he does, we can always mend fences.
Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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