America First strategy has potential to damage Indo-US ties

Washington: Warning that Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ strategy has the potential to “damage” Indo-US ties, prominent Indian-American scholar Ashley Tellis, who is speculated to be the next envoy to India, has said the President-elect needs to strengthen bilateral relations to cope up with the challenges posed by China.

“Trump’s ‘America First’ strategy has the potential to damage the US-India relationship. Trump should instead strengthen India’s alliance to cope up with the challenges posed by China,” said Tellis, senior fellow, South Asia Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a top American think-tank.

In an op-ed published in Asia Policy by the National Bureau of Asian Research, Mumbai-born Tellis said that the variety of positions expressed by Trump suggests that the potential threat to the continuing transformation of US-India relations comes less from his views on India—which are probably unsettled—than it does from his iconoclastic convictions about the relationship between the US and the world.

Tellis, 55, argues that while many elements of Trump’s nationalist agenda are understandable—even defensible—the worldview it represents diverges from that which initially cultured the evolving US-Indian partnership.

“Going back to the earliest years of the George W Bush administration, the US’ rapprochement with India was premised on the assumption that the principle strategic problem facing both countries consisted of the rise of China and the threat it posed to both US primacy and Indian security—not to mention the safety of the US’ other Asian partner and allies— simultaneously,” he wrote.

“Since it was assumed that the United States would subsist as the principal protector of the liberal international order, and the Western alliance system in particular, even in circumstances where the containment of China was impossible because of the new realities of economic interdependence, the Bush administration slowly gravitated toward a strategy of balancing China by building up the power of key states located on its periphery,” Tellis said.

Tellis observes that the current US commitment to the rise of Indian power sans symmetric reciprocity was devised during the Bush administration but has been faithfully continued by Obama for very good reasons.

According to a recent report in The Washington Post, the incoming Trump Administration is considering nominating Tellis as the next American Ambassador to the US. Neither Tellis nor the Trump Transition Team has responded to questions on the news reports.

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