KEY POINTS

  • Indian Americans are among the highest-earning, best educated ethnic groups in the nation
  • Indian Americans have long supported Democrats, but may now be gradually switching to the GOP
  • Trump's visit to India was designed to woo Indian American voters

Indian Americans have emerged as one of the wealthiest, best educated and most accomplished ethnic groups in the U.S.

Numbering at least 4.4 million, Indian Americans have the highest household income of any other Asian American group, with a median household income of almost $102,000.

While Indian Americans have excelled in academia, medicine, finance, high-tech, their participation in U.S. politics still lags. Moreover, most Indian Americans have tended to support Democratic politicians, although some are now moving to the Republicans.

International Business Times spoke to Dr. A.D. Amar, Professor of Management, Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., to discuss Indian Americans, India-U.S. relations and President Donald Trump. Amar was an early supporter of Trump.

IB TIMES: Why do you support Donald Trump?

AMAR: As a business professor, I had known of Trump as an entrepreneur and executive for almost all his career as a builder and TV personality. Nevertheless, I didn’t really develop much of an opinion of him. In 2015, when he started to campaign for his presidential election and put out his political agenda, I found him surprisingly in agreement with the agenda I had pursued, in 2008, when I contested as a Republican for the U.S. Congressional seat from New Jersey’s District 7. This attracted me to Trump. I felt that with the agenda he was pursuing, he was going to solve America’s problems and bring it back to its greatness of the pre-1970s era that had brought me to America in the first place.

In December 2015, with some like-minded friends, I founded a political action committee to support Trump, called ‘Indian Americans for Trump 2016.’ It was registered with the Federal Election Commission in January 2016. We campaigned for Trump in many states. I endorsed him in all media outlets and really wanted him to win.

Later, from Trump’s campaign records, I found out that I was one of the three academics who endorsed him before the primaries.

IB TIMES: Did you receive any criticism for supporting Trump?

AMAR: I had been ridiculed and scorned by several Indians, my colleagues at the university, and friends and strangers alike. It didn’t bother me. I wasn’t doing it for any personal benefit. I just wanted America to regain its influence and continue to be the sole global superpower, as it was better than any other alternative.

IB TIMES: Most Indian Americans support the Democrats. Why do you think this is?

AMAR: Indians associated Democrats with John F. Kennedy. Like most Indian Americans, I also liked the Democrats from John Kennedy onwards. Although I was not eligible to vote in the 1976 presidential election, I supported Jimmy Carter’s election. I thought that he, as an engineer, farmer, and businessman, would become the best president. I was so happy at his victory. However, as a president, Carter so terribly disappointed me. I realized that America did not necessarily need an honest citizen to lead it, but a shrewd, tough-skinned, strong-headed proud patriot. I was looking for someone like America’s forefathers and founders to give this country a new life. I found some of those traits in Ronald Reagan. While Bill Clinton did impress me, he committed many bad acts in office that made me question his focus and integrity.

Barack Obama, I found to be a wrong person in the White House. I was never a Democrat, never identified or registered as one. Obama’s tenure solidified my belief in the Republican Party and agenda (with some exceptions, such as the gun laws). I became highly active in the Republican Party at all levels -- local, state, and federal.

IB TIMES: Do you expect more Indian Americans to gravitate toward the Republicans?

AMAR: Yes. I have seen this happening with Trump’s accomplishments in the White House. He proved not to be a demagogue, but someone who had conviction for the values on which he fought and won.

Indian values have a good overlap with most Republican values. The gravitation of Indian Americans towards the Republican Party will continue and the credit for that should go to Trump. In my observation, he genuinely loves India and respects Indians for what they have shown to the Americans -- intelligence, educational attainments, hard work, entrepreneurship and self-sustenance.

IB TIMES: Do you think Indian values align with the Republican Party more than Democrats?

AMAR: Yes. Go back to the traditional Indian values -- respect for life, strong family, faith in God, individual responsibility, capitalism, and self-reliance. These values that have been time-tested by Indians over several millennia have taken a deep position in the Indian psyche. Mahatma Gandhi highlighted and practiced them and left a Gandhi in all of us.

Strangely enough, Indian values connect with Republican values. The strength of this overlap is so high that it makes me postulate that there must have been a long-past connection between the ancient Indians and those Europeans who evolved and propagated the Republican values.

IB TIMES: Two of the most prominent Indian American politicians, Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal, are both Republicans. Do you think either one of them could ever become president?

AMAR: While both of them are tough Punjabis, very bright people and have many Indian values in their blood, Haley and Jindal distinguish themselves in many ways. Jindal is highly intelligent, but, at times, reflected a lack of emotional and social intelligence. I believe that the gubernatorial office he held was the highest he could have achieved. I am sure he will not make another attempt at the U.S. presidency.

I was not very fond of Nikki Haley for several reasons, especially for not endorsing Trump early, but over her years in the United Nations, I found her to reflect street smarts, emotional intelligence, loyalty, a royal gusto, confidence from a strong belief system, a faith in continuing to do the right thing that would never fail, and a commitment to India. I saw these more in her during this period. I do believe that she is presidential material and one day will throw her hat in the ring and probably win it all.

IB TIMES: What inspired you to found Indian Americans for Trump in 2016?

AMAR: I wanted to increase the Indian American presence in the Republican Party by balancing its Democratic Party participation. I also wanted to let the Trump Organization and other powers, political and nonpolitical, know that Indians had come of age in America.

IB TIMES: Do you think the impeachment process against Trump was a miscalculation by the Democrats?

AMAR: It was, indeed, the Democrats’ serious misstep. What surprised me the most about the running-amok Democrats’ behavior happened when Congressman Adam Schiff and Senator Chuck Schumer conveyed such a surprise and disappointment over Trump’s acquittal by the Senate. They behaved like they expected Trump to be the first president to be convicted and removed from office by the Senate, because the House had charged him, especially knowing that the Senate was controlled by the Republicans. They did not learn from the Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Seeing Democrats not accepting Trump as America’s President when he was legally declared the winner worries me the most about the future of this country as a democracy.

IB TIMES: Is Trump popular in India?

AMAR: After going through the various regions of India during my recent eight-day visit with my Seton Hall University students, I have seen Trump gaining a lot of popularity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all of us who supported Trump during his first election should take the credit.

I was the first Indian to found a PAC for Trump. After his election victory, at the inauguration balls, many reporters asked me why did I believe that Trump was going to win? My answer was that it was his agenda, especially on economics, immigration, and foreign policy, that attracted me to his candidacy, and made me support him.

IB TIMES: Trump has fairly good relations with President Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan. Does this in any way compromise his relations with Modi?

AMAR: No, neither Trump’s relationship with Xi nor with Imran concerns me. He is a big strategic thinker and plays great diplomacy and, eventually, will do what is good for America and for his reelection bid. India and Indian Americans will weigh heavier than China and the Chinese and Pakistan and the Pakistanis in his decisions.

Trump had given us special assurances about India and Indians in October 2016 when he came to Edison, N.J. to woo Indians at our invitation. I expect him to keep those assurances.

IB TIMES: Do you think Trump will make a trade deal with India this year?

AMAR: No. This question was asked of me when I was visiting a university in India this week. Trump visited India for the sake of strengthening his ties with Indian American voters back in the U.S. He is very shrewd and strategic; why would he cut a deal with India that is great for America to make the next president successful, since, right now, it is not sure that he will be occupying the White House? Also, why would he cut a deal with India that is not best for the U.S. since it might hurt his chances for reelection? A great deal with India will be cut in his next term.

IB TIMES: What are the biggest issues related to U.S.-India trade relations?

AMAR: For India, the Generalized System of Preferences [a preferential tariff system which provides tariff cuts on certain products] will be a big issue. Trump took it away and now will get something in return to give it back to India. That has been his strategy with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Korea, China, the euro zone, and others. He will not allow any country to take advantage of the U.S. without giving something in return. In fact, that is what I liked in him.

Immigration will be another issue of importance to India. America needs Indians and India needs America. A favorable immigration policy will also be reached during the Trump’s next term.

Another issue will be security, in particular, the Indo-Pacific Coalition, consisting of the U.S., India, Japan and Australia. This was started upon Modi’s request but would be of a great benefit to America for warding off the Chinese threat, especially in the form of one-belt one-road [a global development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013].

IB TIMES: What if anything did Trump’s recent visit to India accomplish?

AMAR: Trump did not come to India to sign any deals. The $3 billion in defense and military equipment deal is good for India and the U.S.; however, the main goal of this visit was to strengthen his ties to the Indian Americans back home as they are more effectively reached via India. We had told this to Trump in 2016.

The overall number of Indian Americans has increased by about 400,000 in the last four years. They will be even a more critical factor to Trump’s victory in 2020.

IB TIMES: Do you think the coronavirus epidemic will hurt India?

AMAR: It is too early to make any long-term assessment of what is to come of COVID-19. It could be a great opportunity for India if India played its cards right by making rounds in the American and European industrial houses that are deeply affected by the coronavirus, offering them incentives to open or expand their shops in India.

American companies do not like to be captive to Asian suppliers. They are reconsidering their supply chain strategy, looking to diversify their dependence on China in particular, and Asian countries in general. (Americans do not consider India to be an 'Asian' country).

This strategy is already being discussed in European countries and in the high labor cost countries of Asia.

I was dismayed to see India selling coronavirus face masks made in China, especially ones of a better quality. It is ironic -- this is increasing Chinese exports because of a problem that has its origin in China. This is the kind of time when opportunity knocks and the wise respond. India should mobilize its industrial policy and move to quickly plug in the market gaps created around the world by COVID-19.