Both Canberra and New Delhi had deep concerns about the possibility that Donald J. Trump might become President of the United States, but neither really thought he would be elected. When he was, the shock – and indeed fear – was palpable. On the campaign trail and before, Trump had said things that directly challenged the interests of both Australia and India, promising – among other things – to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to severely restrict skilled worker visas. As a consequence, it took a while for both Canberra and New Delhi to come to terms with the new President, and neither found it easy. The early months were rocky. Australia’s then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had an angry phone exchange with the President and the details of the call leaked – allegedly by Stephen Bannon – to the media. When Narendra Modi went to Washington, D. C. in late June 2017, his encounter with Trump looked awkward, the discussion skirted around contentious issues, and the meeting produced few tangible results. And in the background, concern across the Indo-Pacific mounted about the apparent absence in the Administration of a clear strategy for the region.
In retrospect, however, we can see that this Trump-induced anxiety had a catalytic effect. Worries about the direction and implementation of American policy have not gone away, of course, and in some areas they have intensified as his Presidency has worn on. Both Canberra and New Delhi have serious qualms about the way in which the Trump administration is handling the relationship with Beijing and the trade war into which the US and China are now locked. But these concerns have stimulated or accelerated initiatives that might not have occurred without Trump. Canberra’s decision to press ahead with the TPP together with Japan and New Zealand, but without the US, is one. The bolstering of the strategic partnership between Australia and India is another.
The partnership does long pre-date Trump. Its origins lie in the mid-2000s, at the point at which sustained US engagement of India produced the civil nuclear deal and a defence framework agreement, and encouragement from Washington to its allies to build stronger ties with New Delhi. Fortunately, these developments coincided with renewed interest in the Australian business community in India and the opportunities its booming economy might offer. In fits and starts, ties broadened and deepened over the years that followed, especially in defence and security, as China became more assertive in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis and then with the rise of Xi Jinping.
Please click here to read the full ‘In Trump’s shadow: The evolving Australia-India partnership‘ article originally published at The Observer, Researcher Foundation, written by Griffith Asia Institute, Deputy Director, Research, Professor Ian Hall