SO far Donald J Trump has not outgrown his campaign style, he continues to manage his transition in the same manner from the 58th floor of Trump Tower. Smart and experienced Republicans are being sidelined in favour of men having a track record of hate. Initial indicators point out that: a man associated with white supremacy may be the chief strategist; future attorney general may be a person dropped to judgeship on account of alleged racism; and an Islamophobia may be the National Security Advisor. Trump’s new partners in shaping world economy are likely to be ‘Brexit and make in India lobbies’. During his post-election visit to Europe, President Obama faced tough questions about the future of America-Europe relations. Though Obama played down the fears of abandoning Europe, it is clear that there would be no free lunch for European allies.
A US district judge John Primomo has ruled that “Accept Trump as president or go to another country”—that is the evolving American model of tolerance for difference of opinion. Pull of presidency doesn’t seem to moderate Trump’s thought processes. Campaign boys are busy gathering arguments to suggest that Trump’s all campaign promises could be carried through. Caution is due: President Trump may be as ugly as Candidate Trump. Only hope for Pakistan is that he remains adamant of mediating between India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir dispute as well. Trump appears fixated into some regressive ideals of yesteryears. Banning the entry of Muslims, tearing apart Iran nuclear deal, watering down support to Palestinian right to statehood, strict immigration measures including medieval concepts of wall building and electrified fencing, retooling trade relations with China.
Trump said on November 13, in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes”, that once he took office, he would remove immigrants with criminal records who are in the country illegally:” What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally.” However, America looks forward to securing the border before getting on to any statutory immigration measure. Raising of a deportation force is not on cards. Trump referred to undocumented migrants without criminal records as “terrific people”. However, he did not describe in detail what his policy would be toward them. The US already has a large infrastructure for arresting, detaining and deporting migrants. Over eight years, Barack Obama has deported more than 2.5 million people, more than any other president, and more than doubled the number of border patrol agents.
To implement Trump’s views on “extreme vetting” of some Muslim immigrants, a proposal is under consideration for reinstating a national registry for immigrants and visitors from Muslim countries who enter the US on visas from countries where extremist organizations are active. A similar National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), was imposed by President Bush after 9/11, whereby people from “higher risk” countries were required to undergo interrogations and fingerprinting on entering the US. This law was abandoned in 2011 after it was deemed redundant by the Department of Homeland Security. Trump campaign has also restored ‘Muslim ban’ proposal on website that was earlier presumed to have been taken down on November 08. Trump’s economic policy stance has been evident in his oft-repeated inward-looking pronouncements. Globalisation engendered inequalities have been at the heart of Trump’s economic policy declarations. Reversal and or renegotiation of some of the earlier trade agreements and policies may be on cards. The core elements of trade policy include imposition of higher tariffs on imports in general, and from China and Mexico in specific. Under circumstances, Pakistan’s desire of preferential access to US market may not bear fruits.
With America being the world’s largest importer with a share of almost 14 per cent in world imports, imposition of higher tariffs will naturally be detrimental to world trade. And even then the US economy may not gain because attempt to push domestic manufacturing may imply higher costs and inefficient production. As the largest export market for India with a share of 15 per cent in India’s total exports, higher tariffs in the US may dilute India’s existing comparative advantage in the IT services and other sectors. US initiative towards protectionist instruments is likely to be countered by retaliatory measures by other economies. And Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, may emerge as an alternative trade configuration for the Asian economies, minus the US.
Dr Marvin G Weinbaum, an expert on Afghanistan and Pakistan, is of the view that that South Asian region will not be on the priority list of the new US administration.” It might be the second or third priority unless something blows up,” Dr Weinbaum said on November 15 during a roundtable discussion at the US embassy. He also does not see any significant changes in the US policy on Afghanistan under the new administration rather there can be a surge of US troops. “I don’t think withdrawal will happen. I won’t be surprised if US sends 5,000 more troops” he added.
Afghan instability and Taliban advances are likely to prompt the Trump administration into slowing down the draw-down. Trump may be less hesitant than his predecessors in penalizing Pakistan for failures in Afghanistan, instead of own cohorts. Afghanistan’s own failures at political unity, state cohesion and economic inefficiency will likely create tensions between any new US administration and Pakistan. Also Trump may not see aid as an incentivising instrument for better cooperation. American political and military cultures have always focused on accountability with regard to military expeditions abroad; these are projected either as outright victories, or responsibility is squarely fixed for bogging down. Trump is likely to follow the tradition. Safeguarding Pakistan’s interests will need vigilance. Islamabad will need a proactive approach to navigate the complexities of new face of power—albeit crude one.
Trump’s embrace of hyper-nationalist governments, like one that of Narendra Modi, matching his own brand could come more naturally than bonding with Pakistan. However, for any global power, there may be no exits from strategically located Pakistan. Trump could, at least in theory, reshape the fabric of US policies, both qualitatively and quantitatively, through exercise of his an unprecedented hold on all state institutions. This is enormous critical mass of power, vested in a single party since 1928. Such preponderance of power, in a single individual is likely to have its implications, both for the better and or for the worse.
—The writer is consultant to IPRI on policy and strategic reform.