The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), given its recent anti-immigrants election campaign in Assam and the perception that the Republican administrations have been friendlier towards India, should have found an alter ego in Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. But the Indian diaspora in the United States, even its more prosperous sections, have conveyed to the BJP’s overseas arm that they were unlikely to support Trump in the US presidential elections due in November.
Overseas friends of BJP chief Vijay Chauthaiwale was in the US in the latter half of June. He travelled across the US to meet representatives of Indian diaspora associations. There are literally dozens of associations of each linguistic group. The Rockefeller Foundation — Aspen Institute Diaspora Programme (RAD) survey in July 2014 — had identified 224 important diaspora associations of Indian linguistic, regional and religious groups.
Chauthaiwale also had a meeting with Thomas Shannon, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Barack Obama administration. Shannon was on a four day visit to India in end-June and early July and met Indian political leaders, diplomats and academics.
The feedback, from talking to American politicians and Indian diaspora, was unanimous. That Trump, despite the upswing in India-US relations during the Republic administration of George W Bush from 2000 to 2008, cannot be supported because of his anti-immigration stance and xenophobic statements.
In contrast, Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton is familiar with India and has visited the country several times. Former US President Bill Clinton met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the funeral of Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew. The Clintons had a 45-minute meeting with the PM during his maiden US visit in September 2014. India-US relations had improved during the second term of Bill Clinton, with him visiting India during the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2000.
The mood is against Trump not just among Indian-Americans but also rest of the Asian Americans, which together constitute nearly 4% of American population. The Republicans have nearly written off the presidential elections in ethnically diverse states like California. Indian-Americans are largely concentrated in California where Indian-origin Kamala Harris is the Democrat candidate for the Senate.
On Friday, the Democrat platform draft for 2016, akin to a manifesto, was made public. It said Democrats will continue to “invest in a long-term strategic partnership with India.” It criticised Trump’s advocacy of isolationist policies. The draft discussed India in the context of the Asia-Pacific and acknowledged India as the “the world’s largest democracy, a nation of great diversity, and an important Pacific power.”
“We will work with our allies and partners to fortify regional institutions and norms as well as protect freedom of the seas in the South China Sea. We will push back against North Korean aggression and press China to play by the rules. We will stand up to Beijing on unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, and cyber attacks. And we will promote greater respect for human rights, including the rights of Tibetans,” it said.
Continuity in the administration would give India confidence that the Americans will support New Delhi’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as take forward the recent consolidation of ties between Obama and Modi.
Indian Diaspora in US
– Currently estimated to be 3.5 million or nearly 1% of US population
– Third largest group after Mexican and Chinese
– Concentrated in California, followed by New Jersey and Texas; By metropolitan area in New York City, Chicago, San Jose, Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles
– 51% of Indian immigrants settled in the US during or after 2000
– A quarter of Indian households in top 10% of US household income distribution
– An estimated one in eight Silicon Valley startups founded by Indian origin entrepreneurs
– Median income of Indian American families in 2010 was $88,000, nearly twice the US national average
– 70% Indian Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to US national average of less than 30%