The race for the White House has come down to its former resident and a loudmouth celebrity. While one is well versed with norms of international law and diplomacy, the other is very much a dark horse. Hillary Clinton is an establishment candidate while Donald’s Trump-ism is new to the Grand Old Party, or more commonly the Republican Party. The country’s first female presidential nominee has already withstood a robust revolt within the Democratic Party with the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders.
Nonetheless, US voters are bracing for a very close contest. By far, the presidential election will be the most globally followed event in history, courtesy Donald Trump’s meteoric ascent. Devoid of consistency and ignorant of the state system, the man has bulldozed every opponent in his way. However, after winning the party nomination and choosing a running mate, things may change for the better. The Republican campaign will be more coherent in conduct and consistent in policy formulations than Trump’s.
Owing to her past experience of competing for the Democratic Party nomination and losing to Senator Barack Obama, Hillary will have to make a few alterations, which may include embracing some of Bernie’s discourse. Though her stint as secretary of state was not the most incredible one, she set the record for racking up the most air miles. The Democratic nominee is an experienced White House insider, equally at ease with national matters and international politics.
For the next administration in Washington, the South China Sea and the Middle East will be two key areas of anxiety. Presidential debates will shed some light on how the either camp comprehends both the issues. While Hillary is least likely to continue Obama-Kerry Russia-leaning policy on Syria, the Trump side has yet to articulate its consistent stance on the matter.
Though the Democrats’ stance has been relatively softer and pragmatic on China, the Republican approach continues to be hostile. During both his terms in office, Obama has consolidated Washington’s India policy to counterweigh China in the region. The Republicans are set to up the ante as one-on-one debates begin soon.
The Indian diaspora is weighing in big time on either side of the race. During the 2008 campaign, Obama attacked Hillary for her relations with wealthy Indian-Americans and her support for outsourcing to India. She was also taunted as a Democrat from Indian province of Punjab. Her Indian lobbyists are sprinting to seize the opportunity this time around.
On the Republican side, there seems to be no dearth of enthusiastic Indians and their donations. Shalabh Kumar, founder of Republican Hindu Coalition, has so far raised $899,000 for Trump campaign and has set a target of $1.1 million for Trump’s presidential bid. Kumar is keen to see profiling and ejection of Muslims alongside monitoring of their religious gatherings and institutions. Much to the joy of his pro-Modi lobbyists, Trump has already branded Pakistan a ‘semi-unstable’ country with nuclear weapons. He even hinted at seeking India’s help in fixing Pakistan. The so-called billionaire may be widely popular in India; however, many believe he will act differently in the Oval Office.
On the contrary, not only does Hillary Clinton have substantial support amongst Indian-Americans, New Delhi sees her as a mature and dependable politician. Despite her chief of staff, Huma Abedin, being of Pakistani origin, the Democrat nominee has been tough on Islamabad during her stint as secretary of state. Yet, a sizeable Pakistani diaspora supported her campaign for nomination. The Clintons have had quite a few close Pakistani-American friends.
Contrary to the Indian community in America, there are few Pakistanis supporting Trump bid for the White House. However, much depends on how his camp articulates the policies as so far his statements have not only been factually incorrect but also contradictory.
With Pakistan offering economic corridor to China, Islamabad has been facing renewed ire from the US as well as India. Pakistan also supports China’s position in South China Sea. Conservatives in the US believe Islamabad will offer Gwadar as a naval base at a later stage. The likes of Zalmay Khalilzad, former Bush era top diplomat, demand denuclearising Pakistan and branding it alongside North Korea.
Undoubtedly, Pakistan-US relations will continue to deteriorate. Pakistan is already echoing with the likelihood of a fresh set of nuclear or security related sanctions. Either side is faced with some crucial questions: Will Pakistan be able to de-hyphenate itself from China while conducting diplomacy with the US? Can Washington abandon Islamabad yet again, while Afghanistan is still marred with insurgency? How far will US-India partnership help resolve the Jammu and Kashmir and water-sharing dispute? How wise will it be for Hillary or Trump’s America to push an ally state in Chinese bloc?