While much of the world attempts to decipher the implications of a Donald Trump presidency, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he expects to have good relations with the president-elect.
Much has been made of Trump’s comments during his campaign about Russia and China. Yet one of the most delicate situations Trump will be inheriting when he arrives at the White House on Jan. 20 is the increased tension between India and Pakistan.
Since an Indian army base in the disputed region of Kashmir was attacked on Sept. 18, killing 19, the two sides have engaged in ongoing deadly fire across the Line of Control that divides the territory. The neighboring countries have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since becoming independent states in 1947.
Commenting shortly after the violence erupted in September, President Barack Obama’s administration outlined its concern about cross-border terrorism and Pakistan’s efforts to combat it. And it appears India is confident of having the next U.S. president in its corner.
Speaking at a dinner with political leaders on Monday, Modi, who called Trump following his election win, said he had a good relationship with Trump and that there was no reason to expect a dramatic change in relations between the U.S. and India, according to The Times of India.
Trump has made similar suggestions himself. At a Republican Hindu Coalition event last month, the man who went on to beat Hillary Clinton in a shock election result a week ago said that the U.S. and India would be “best friends.” He later added: “There isn't going to be any relationship more important to us.”
However, on the same day, when speaking to the English-language Indian daily the Hindustan Times, he offered to play more of a mediating role in a dispute he described as a “very, very hot tinderbox.”
“If it was necessary I would do that,” he said. “If we could get India and Pakistan getting along, I would be honored to do that. That would be a tremendous achievement… I think if they wanted me to, I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator.”
Even before taking up the presidency, Trump has connections to India. Two luxury residential projects, in the city of Mumbai and Pune, will be branded as Trump Towers, with Trump set to receive royalties on sales. Both of the groups running the projects have links to political figures in India.
In July, the Trump Organization, through Donald Trump Jr., declared it was planning an even larger development expansion in India.
With both India and Pakistan having vast nuclear weapon arsenals, the dispute provides ample cause for concern and a delicate balancing act. In addition, the United States has sought to rely on Pakistan to help combat terrorism in the region, which has led to past tension between the two. Notably, relations were strained following a U.S. attack that killed Osama Bin Laden in a hideout just a few hundred yards from Pakistan’s top military academy, prompting suggestions that Pakistani intelligence officials were aware of the Al Qaeda leader’s presence.
Throughout his campaign, Trump promised to take a much tougher stance against terrorism at home, including calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country and for mosques to be placed under surveillance. Those stances helped win him the support and close to $1 million in donations from Indian-American industrialist Shalabh Kumar.
And Kumar, who founded the Republican Hindu Coalition that hosted a campaign event for Trump last month, is confident the president-elect will forge a close bond with his Indian counterpart. Kumar even called Trump's election a "second Diwali," in reference to the Hindu festival.
"I have no doubt that the Trump and Modi governments will be the best friends and the two leaders will be unparalleled friends in the history of world leadership," Kumar said at an event following the election.