Dr. Susmit Kumar, Ph.D.
Although the majority of Indians in the US voted for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee in the 2016 Presidential elections, a Hindu organization supported Donald Trump claiming that he would act decisively against the Islamic terrorists and countries, especially Pakistan. But the early signs of Trump presidency do not bode well for India. In order to contain China, the US desperately needs the support of India because India is the only Asian country, with its world’s third largest defense forces, capable to help the US against the Chinese army. For this very reason, India was the first country, outside the EU, that UK Prime Minister Theresa May visited after entering office.
Recognizing the importance of India, the George W Bush administration started the process of bringing India to the US fold by signing the 123 Agreement, aka the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, after getting the waiver of the Non-Proliferation Treaty for India. The Obama administration unequivocally supported India's membership in all international forums including being Permanent Member of the UN Security Council. It is only because of US support that India became a member of Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016. The Obama administration tried its best to get India into the Nuclear Supplier's Group as well.
After nearly more than a decade of US courtship, the Trump administration seems bent on undoing the works of the previous two administrations. Recently the new White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, kept mum on the question of Trump administration’s support for India’s candidacy for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. After taking the reins, the Trump administration released a list of seventy-eight Islamic terrorist attacks, deeming even simple knife attacks by Muslims as terrorism, without including any terrorist attacks in India, despite there having been several major terrorist attacks in India. In addition, the Obama administration gave green light for the Lockheed’s proposal for manufacturing and sale of F-16 fighter aircrafts in India, a first major defense deal between the two countries. Through this deal, India would not only get the latest fighter aircrafts but its defense industry would also obtain the latest technologies used in F-16 aircrafts. But the Trump administration has stopped the process and placed the proposal under review.
One reason for Trump’s neglect of India may be the influence of Steve Bannon, Trump's political guru and White supremacist. Steve Bannon thinks that White people should rule the world and hence India should be a non-entity for Trump. It is said that Steve Bannon is obsessed with a book, The Fourth Turning, according to which institutions are destroyed and rebuilt every 80 years. The Fourth Turning, a 1997 book in which William Strauss and Neil Howe explain their theory of American history, sees American history as a series of 80-year cycles each divided into four phases. Each cycle begins after a moment of crisis. Over the next 80 years, institutions are embraced, challenged and rebelled against - until they are destroyed and rebuilt during the next crisis. These cycles, according to the authors, have taken the US from the revolution (1765-1783) to the Civil War (1861-1865) to the Second World War (1939-1945). According to this theory, some place the Second World War at the end of a period of crisis beginning with the Great Depression of 1929, over eighty years ago. All of these periods were marked by periods of dread and decay in which the American people were forced to unite to rebuild a new future, but only after a massive conflict in which many lives were lost. They all start with a catalyst event, then there's a period of degeneracy, after which there is a defining climax wherein a war for the old order is fought, and then finally there is a resolution in which a new world order is stabilized. Bannon directed a 2010 movie, Ground Zero, based on Strauss and Howe's theory of crisis. The movie depicts the 2008 financial crisis as a point of turning, and this particular era of change is known as "The Fourth Turning," and Bannon, like Strauss and Howe, believes we are in the midst of this turning right now.
After the 2013 Ukraine crisis and subsequent Western economic sanctions against Russia, the Putin administration had no option but to surrender to China in order to get the money that it desperately needed. Although the Trump administration may withdraw the sanctions and become friendly towards Russia, Putin knows that this friendship would last only as long as Trump is in power and both Republican and Democratic party leaders are not in favor of any rapprochement with Russia. Hence Putin will never forsake the Chinese friendship. After nearly seventy years of special friendship with Russia (the Soviet Union before Russia), India has since ten years begun to drift towards the US. Due to China, India cannot expect its old Russian friendship to return.
During the Cold War, India had the unflinching support of the Soviet Union at world forums. The Soviet Union, enjoying a Veto power in the UN Security Council (UNSC), helped India on several occasions. For an example, during the 1971 India-Pakistan War the Soviet Union kept the UNSC resolution, which had the support of nearly all then UNSC members, in abeyance till India achieved its objective of the Pakistan’s army surrender in Dacca, enabling the dismembering of the then Pakistan. Two recent incidents showed that India cannot anymore depend on Russia’s support. Within a few days of the much publicized Indian surgical strikes against Pakistan’s terrorist camps in September 2016, Russia went ahead to conduct the first ever military exercise with Pakistan which India expected to be postponed. Again, despite India having a significant stake in any outcome in Afghanistan, Russia did not invite India to the late 2016 summit on Afghanistan, attended by China and Pakistan, which excluded even Afghanistan.
Therefore, it seems that India may not have the backing of any major world power in a military conflict as long as Trump is in power.