India's new 'friend'
India occupies an 'interesting' space of honour in regards to the US Presidential election. Indian-Americans are an influential and connected minority in the USA with somewhere between 2-2.3 million voters in their ranks. India itself is an important lynchpin in any US strategy that seeks to contain the rise of China, among other things. Back in 2016, Trump managed to score no more than 20 per cent of this vote bank. Indeed, it would not be inaccurate to say that the Indian community did not think much about Trump until he gained the Indian PM Modi's approval at the 'Howdy Modi' event in Houston. Despite Trump's worryingly obvious Christian evangelism leanings and support, the Indian community in the USA has appeared to warm up to Trump. Of course, the Indian diaspora in America is as varied as the Indian nation itself. At this point in the leadup to the November elections, it is hard to say how the Indian community truly feels about another term for Trump, especially given his increasingly hardline view on minorities, immigration and the aforementioned 'Christianisation of America'. Still, Trump can claim some limited support within the Indian diaspora, if the recently held 'Hindus4Trump' virtual rally is any indication. It was reported that this virtual rally was attended by more than 1,00,000 American Hindus who see some reason for supporting a second term for Trump. Now, to be certain, the rally was not strictly about American Indian vote or concerns, it was about American Hindu vote and their concerns. Indian Hindus are simply a majority in this group. The concerns raised by the group for Trump to address were presented through the lens of religion. Some concerns were limited to matters within the US such as the need for Trump-supporting American Hindu candidates in elections across the US or the need for the Trump campaign to address the concerns of the American Hindu community regarding the open support shown by the Democrats to the leftists and Islamists in America. Other concerns were more global like the need for the Trump Campaign to address the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Appealing to the righteous appeasement of religious fears is very much in the style of Trump who has made the destruction of traditional Christian values in America as one of his campaign points for a very long time. The inherent divisiveness of gathering support through such an approach also plays into the longtime Trump narrative of 'Us vs Them'. It would be premature to presume that 'Trump' is a friend to India or any of its communities. While Trump has made grand gestures of friendship towards India and its PM, he has, at the same time, also instituted policies such as new restrictions on H1-B visas or the possible downsizing or complete elimination of the guest worker visas and the 'Optional Training Program'. This is part of Trump's overall drive to limit legal immigration to America, a policy that greatly affects India and its many immigrants in America. At the same time, the American Indians have been backed into a corner in regards to their political choices. The Democrats, particularly the left-leaning ones, have been critical of the Indian Government's perceived discrimination against religious minorities. Throwing support behind candidates who may turn out to be openly critical of the Indian Government at a later stage can be an awkward result for the Indian American voters. In some ways, Joe Bidden ambiguity on India may play to his favour in this regard. He has made friendly gestures throughout his campaign. He has insisted that he will help India gain a much-coveted permanent seat at the UN Security
Council. He has also stated that the Indian-American votes will be the key to his campaign. Many have argued that Biden could be equally, if not more, friendly to India as compared to Trump. Still, it is not unlikely that when in power, Biden's left-leaning base may force him to take certain stances that might not be agreeable for the Indian American diaspora.