No direct impact on U.S.-India ties: Experts

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of State is unlikely to have much “direct impact” on relations with India, says experts and former diplomats, although Rex Tillerson’s close dealings in the oil industry, stance on visas, climate change, and with Russia in particular could have an impact on the broader future scenario.

According to former Ambassador Neelam Deo, now with Gateway House, the Indian leadership would have no issue dealing with a businessman-diplomat or for that matter the U.S.’s businessman-President.

“PM [Narendra] Modi is himself quite comfortable dealing with businessmen, and is seen as a dealmaker and risk-taker. I don’t see that he would have any trouble hitting it off with Mr. Trump or Mr. Tillerson. Despite their obvious differences in temperament, he and President [Barack] Obama were extremely close, remember.”

Mr. Tillerson, with close business ties with Moscow, is expected to improve ties between Washington and Moscow. “Better U.S.-Russia ties are to India’s benefit. India has been worried about the strategic nightmare if there is a formal alliance between Russia and China, given how important Russia is to India on military and energy supplies,” says Russia-expert at the Observer Research Foundation, Nandan Unnikrishnan. “Any easing of tensions between the U.S. and Russia will also make things easier for India,” he told The Hindu .

On energy, one aspect of concern could be the new administration’s attitude to climate change and the Paris accord in particular, which India ratified on October 2, and was subsequently adopted by the UN. “More than just India and China, there will be a global impact if the Paris accord is jeopardised,” explained former Ambassador and special envoy on energy, Rakesh Sood.

Another worry is Mr. Trump’s recent reiteration that he would curtail ‘H-1B visas’, which allows U.S. companies to temporarily employ foreigners. While his moves on immigration and work visas will be watched closely, experts say India-U.S. relations were otherwise protected by “bipartisan support” in Congress, and that would ensure no major shift in the considerable progress they have made.

In addition, says Ms. Deo, the greater strides made during the Obama administration were in the field of defence, which are more long-term, and unlikely to be reversed by the new appointees. “Even in the Obama administration, Mr. Kerry was preoccupied by Iran and Syria among other issues, but it was the Pentagon that drove the relationship to its new heights.”

The Indian leadership will have no issue dealing with a businessman-diplomat, says an expert

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