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'Trump Administration' would focus on defence ties with India, says aide

November 08, 2016 14:37 IST

Defence and counter-terrorism would be two key pillars of Indo-United States strategic ties under Donald Trump, his top military advisor has said while asserting that India will be ‘absolutely critical’ to the Republican candidate's foreign policy as president.

“This is a country that shares our values, this is a country that shares a lot of geo-political interest and, I think, his (Trump’s) work is going to be continuing the tradition of Bush Administration which made a lot of progress in that regard,” Alexander Gray, a senior military advisor and author of several of the ambitious defence policies of Trump, said.

“We (Trump Administration) would be looking to strengthen not just the cultural and economic aspect, but also on the defence side there is so much common ground with India. At a time when India’s foreign policy is changing because of China and Pakistan, because of Islamic terrorism, we need to be there to greet them with open arms. I think, the Trump Administration is ready to do that,” Gray said giving an insight into the India policy of a possible Trump administration.

Trump is the only presidential candidate to have addressed a meeting of Indian Americans and directly spoken about a strong India-US relationship.

Gray, who has emerged as a key player in evolving the defence and military policies of the Trump Campaign, said India would be ‘absolutely critical’ in Trump’s foreign policy.

Co-author of a major policy paper on ‘Donald Trump’s Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia Pacific’ which was published in the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine, Gray said India is ‘on top of the list’ of Trump's Indo-Asia Pacific policy to which the defence aspect would be an important pillar.

“Strengthening defence relationship with India would be at top. This is what the Congress has been looking at for a long time," he said, indicating that a Trump Administration would be looking at legislative changes towards strengthening India-US defense ties.

“The Trump Administration would not give a passage to what China is doing in South China Sea, what it is doing in East China Sea, what it is doing along the border in India,” Gray said in response to a question.

A strong partnership with US would deter China from making any aggressive posture against India, said Puneet Ahluwalia, a member of the Trump’s Advisory Committee on Asian Americans.

“A strong US defence with India would give India much dependable ally to fight of threats from its neighbours and from terrorism by creating strong navy and latest technology in cyber and other areas,” he said.

Ahluwalia, a Washington DC-based lobbyist, said he will work aggressively with the Trump Administration and the Pentagon to remove the obstacles in regards to transfer of technology and enhance defence trade and develop the blue economy.

The Foreign Policy article co-authored by Gray and Peter Navarro, also a senior military advisor to the Trump Campaign, said Obama Administration’s Asia Pacific pivot seemed to be an appropriate and timely response against China’s aggressive behaviour and military build up.

“It did not take long, however, for the pivot to falter,” Gray said.

‘It’s not just that Secretary Clinton’s weak pivot follow-through has invited Chinese aggression in the East and South China Seas. She also faithfully executed the Obama administration’s failed policy of 'strategic patience' with North Korea -- a foreign-policy doctrine that has produced nothing but heightened instability and increased danger,’ the op-ed said.

Observing that American allies and partners in the region have been disheartened by a foreign policy that has veered from feckless to mendacious, the Trump Administration’s top policy advisors said the Philippines’ recent high-profile rejection of American leadership, and open courtship with China, is a further setback in Asia for the Obama Clinton foreign policy.

‘The United States has tremendous opportunities to reclaim its geostrategic position in Asia. This is due mainly to China’s own miscalculations and the overplaying of its hand,’ they said.

‘Almost in spite of the Obama administration's repellant policies, US partners like Japan, South Korea, India, and even Myanmar and Vietnam continue to seek closer ties with Washington across the spectrum. They view Beijing as a bully and potential aggressor that must be balanced against,’ Gray and Navarro wrote.

‘The next administration will be well-placed to seize these strategic opportunities -- if it has the will and vision to do so,’ they wrote.

‘Trump’s approach is two-pronged. First, Trump will never again sacrifice the US economy on the altar of foreign policy by entering into bad trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, allowing China into the World Trade Organisation, and passing the proposed TPP,’ the article said.

‘These deals only weaken our manufacturing base and ability to defend ourselves and our allies. Second, Trump will steadfastly pursue a strategy of peace through strength, an axiom of Ronald Reagan that was abandoned under the Obama administration,’ it added.

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