Will Donald Trump allow immigration from India

| In search of lost hegemony

On the strategic partnership between India and the USA

Unlike most other heads of state, the Indian Prime Minister welcomed Donald Trump's election as 45th President of the United States last year. In fact, the two “strong men” Trump and Modi (Rilling 2016) have more in common than authoritarian-nationalist rhetoric. Not only did Trump's patriotic demeanor, expressed in slogans such as “America First” or “Make America Great Again”, meet with understanding in New Delhi. There was also approval of his declaration of intent to curb migration from Latin America by building a wall. Modi also wants to control the influx from neighboring Bangladesh more effectively. Both riot against the ruling elites, pretend to want to fight corruption and have declared Islamism and terrorism to be the greatest threats to their respective countries. In addition, Trump and Modi are unanimous in their harsh criticism of China.

What has happened is that the political leadership of India - founding state and leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement, an important member of the BRICS (Alliance of Emerging Markets Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization - is currently one support nationalist US politics? What are the reasons for this obvious political paradigm shift in the foreign policy of a country that, since independence, viewed the North-South antagonism as the main geopolitical contradiction, after which it determined its most important partners and called for a corresponding reform of the post-war order?

From the Atlantic to the Pacific: Decline of the West and Rise of Asia

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the associated collapse of actually existing socialism signaled a fundamental change in the system. With the worldwide triumph of capitalism and the secured domination of the West for many decades under the leadership of the USA as the only remaining superpower, the “end of history” seemed to herald. But a series of costly, unsuccessful and often illegal military interventions when measured against the war objectives - starting with the destruction of Yugoslavia through the operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya - undermined the moral as well as the economic foundation of the USA - and in the end their influence in the world. The effects of the neoliberal globalization, which was driven not least by financial market-oriented capital groups, exacerbated this tendency. National economic cycles were broken up, and production and distribution systems became more and more global in the course of international competition for the best and ultimately most cost-effective locations. Far-reaching restructuring and relocations between industries, locations, regions and countries took place on the world market, transnational corporations developed alongside the states to become central actors in this process. The unresolved financial and economic crisis of 2008 further weakened the position of the formerly leading industrialized countries (G7). Many of them suffer from low growth, public debt, high unemployment and an aging population. Whereas in the early 1990s the G7 countries generated two thirds of the world's national product, today it is less than half (2015: 46.5 percent).[1] “Make America Great Again!”: With his most important election slogan, Trump indirectly addressed the relative economic decline and the associated loss of power in the United States in foreign policy.

The so-called Third World is different, and here in particular the emerging countries. They have doubled their share of the world’s national product in the last 25 years from around 20 to around 40 percent. Above all, those countries whose populations are above average young and highly qualified were able to benefit from the opening of the markets and the drastically reduced transport and communication costs. Their comparatively cheap labor and their growing affluent middle classes attracted massive amounts of foreign direct investment. High growth rates strengthened the economy and the state. Following “tiger states” such as Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, other Asian states, above all the People's Republic of China and India, have risen to become emerging countries, in some cases even to new capitalist centers. Vietnam and Indonesia are the next up-and-coming candidates.

Almost all of the countries mentioned here are in Asia. In line with the new flows of goods and trade, the center of gravity of the world economy has been shifting away from the Atlantic towards Asia or towards the Asia-Pacific region for a long time. With the expansion of the group of G7 states to 20 states (G20), the changed global economic balance of power has been taken into account in a first step. A tectonic change is also emerging in geopolitics, which is putting the traditional security architecture in Asia up for grabs. Since the end of the Second World War, this had been based on the presence of the USA as an economic and military hegemonic power in the region. In view of the rise of China to the second most powerful global power and the loss of importance of the United States as described, its security guarantees do not seem to be worth as much as they used to be.

The transformation of the previous power structures is only just beginning. After all, it is a complex process in which the struggle for supremacy is accompanied by newly emerging conflicts between different regional powers over territorial claims or access to markets. In the process of the transition from a hegemonic to a mere superpower, the USA vacillates in its strategy with regard to China between a co-directoral “G2 solution” and a containment policy that has been under the motto “Pivot to Asia” since the Obama administration ( Turning to Asia). The negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) between the USA and eleven states in the region, with the deliberate exclusion of China, played a key role. Together with the transatlantic twin project TTIP, it was intended to secure its global economic, legal and institutional supremacy for the foreseeable future for the USA - which was the only country involved in both trade agreements in a leading position. However, both agreements were terminated right at the beginning of Trump's term in office.

Change in the international power structure: India and the BRICS countries

In the course of the universalization of the system of the private capitalist market economy, the regulatory policy between plan and market as the central contradiction of the post-war period and as the political and economic basis for the formation of geopolitical blocs has lost importance. With neoliberal globalization, the former central contradiction between center and periphery (or in other words: between global north and global south) has receded into the background in favor of a hierarchization of states based on their economic performance and international competitiveness (with regard to production costs and technological development). The result is a multiple differentiation of the countries of the global south. In many places, mostly regional economic communities such as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) or Mercosur (Common Market of South America) were founded. On the north-south axis, the amalgamation of the BRIC countries, which in addition to Russia, Brazil, India and China also include the most powerful emerging countries, replaced the movement of the non-aligned and the group of 77 as the political interest group of the global South (cf. Schmalz / Ebenau 2011). With the admission of South Africa to the federal government in 2010 (from now on called BRICS), the post-colonial tricontinental movement was specifically linked. The five member states currently live 42 percent of the world's population and generate 20 percent of the nominal world national product, or even 31 percent according to purchasing power parities.[2] Their position in world trade developed in a similar way. There they increased their share in the last 25 years from under 4 to almost 20 percent. After all, they are no longer just importers, but also export capital themselves, with a share of around 11 percent of global foreign investment, primarily to Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. With over $ 5 trillion, they hold around 40 percent of the world's currency reserves. It is to be expected that they will catch up with the G7 countries in terms of their economic strength within the next two decades.[3]

In accordance with their growing global economic importance, the BRICS are also trying to increase their political and institutional weight. They have put various bilateral conflicts and national interests on hold and, through increased cooperation and coordination, have successfully strengthened their joint sanction potential with the aim of promoting a change in the world order dominated by the West. The BRICS, a political platform rather than a formal alliance, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are examples of this - India, Russia and China are full members of both. Together they have succeeded in getting the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to redistribute voting rights in their favor. In addition, against opposition from the USA, the IMF and the World Bank were given alternative, if not yet competitive, financial institutions, for example the BRICS reserve fund (Contingency Reserve Arrangements), initially with 100 billion US dollars, and the New Development Bank (Neelsen 2014 and 2016). Despite these successes and the regulation that all participating states have formally the same voting rights and are represented with the same amount of financial deposits, India is aware of the great imbalance in economic power: China represents two thirds of the national product of all five member states, purchasing power in India is just 40 percent of that in China and, taking into account the exchange rates, India only accounts for 20 percent of the Chinese national product.

In other international forums such as the G20 or the UN, the government representatives of the BRICS usually agree on common positions in advance in order to enforce a more equitable multipolar order. They all agree that the fundamental pillars of the UN, such as national sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs and territorial integrity, as well as the equality of its members, should under no circumstances be touched. Accordingly, there was a common vote against military interventions by the USA or NATO without a UN mandate, as in the case of Libya. The situation is similar with environmental issues: both in Copenhagen and at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of 2015, there was a joint advocacy for industrialized countries to have to make advance payments because of their disproportionately high greenhouse gas emissions in the past and because of their imperial lifestyle, which cannot be universalized. This is the only way to create room for maneuver for catching up economic development in the countries of the global south. The right to development should not be played off against environmental concerns.

The “Asian Century”: India's World Power Ambitions overshadowed by China

The rise of Asia and the decline of the West signal a double epochal turning point. On the one hand, there is the historic end of almost 500 years of western rule, characterized by violence, genocide, expropriation and systematic underdevelopment in large parts of the world. On the other hand, there is the hope of India and China for a renaissance of their former cultural, political and economic power. Until they were colonized by Europe, they not only made up around half of the world's population, but were also among the richest countries. India wants to regain its former role as a regional and global leading power in the beginning of the “Asian Century”. This requires an internationally competitive, technologically and economically strong foundation. China is both a role model and a competitor (see Turowski in this special online edition). China's 25-year lead to catch up as quickly as possible, is the ultimate goal of Narendra Modi's government.

For this purpose, large amounts of foreign investments and technological know-how must be acquired and transnational companies must be won over to settle in India. Although China has also promised billions in investments, the Indian government is primarily targeting the rich industrialized countries, especially Japan in addition to the USA. She is also trying to improve relations with its South Asian neighbors, including Pakistan. In addition, there is an active focus on Southeast Asia, which is expressed in the ASEAN network and in the reorientation of foreign policy from “Look East” to “Act East”. In both cases, one encounters competition from the economically far superior Chinese People's Republic and occasionally - as in the case of Vietnam - becomes a party in a conflict that initially did not affect one directly.

In the current process of restructuring the structure of influence and power in the Pacific region, China is not only the main competitor for India, but also prevents the realization of Indian ambitions to catch up in economic terms. The Chinese “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) project is a clear example of this. It refers to the geographical area of ​​the ancient Silk Road, which connected Europe with Asia in the Middle Ages, as well as to a historical maritime trade route between China, Southeast Asia and the countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Even if India benefited from the establishment of such an intercontinental infrastructure network by stimulating trade and economy, it would not be in the center, but would only be a stopover. New Delhi is considering launching some kind of alternative project. Under the keyword "Mausam", the plan is to revive the historically grown trade and cultural relations with Southeast Asia, which are visible in religion and architecture from Burma to Thailand and Cambodia to Bali.

Due to its geographical location as well as its demographic, economic and political importance, India also claims a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, alongside the five veto powers, whose privileges date back to the Second and the subsequent Cold War. The Chinese government has promised thiss To support projects, but in India this commitment is seen as pure lip service. One is particularly angry about the recent move by Beijing, which, together with other government officials, prevented India from joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Further bilateral territorial conflicts, some of which go back to the colonial era, also poison mutual relations. Among other things, it is about the course of the borders in the west, in Kashmir, which is also controlled by Pakistan, as well as disputed areas in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which borders Tibet, Myanmar and Bhutan. In 1962 a border war broke out between India and China, which ended with a ceasefire. Since then, state-of-the-art military infrastructures have been built along the line of control and troops have been stationed on both sides. There are repeated reports of armed clashes.

The continuing tensions as a result of these unresolved territorial issues only recently returned to the agenda on the occasion of a trip by the Dalai Lama, who had found refuge in India with his supporters after his escape from Tibet in 1959. The Dalai Lama recently visited a monastery in the disputed area. The government in Beijing saw its suspicion that it was not a purely religious, but above all a politically motivated company, corroborated by statements by the governor of Arunachal Pradesh. He had spoken of the border with "southern Tibet" and thus questioned the membership of Tibet in the People's Republic and the one-China policy. Beijing protested the visit, claiming it caused "serious damage" to Sino-Indian relations.

In the long run, the heaviest burden is probably China's relationship with Pakistan, India's archenemy since the end of British colonial rule, which sealed the division of British India into the two independent states of India and Pakistan in 1947. This was associated with massive population exchanges and displacement, which resulted in twelve million refugees and nearly a million deaths. Since then, Muslim Kashmir has been divided and its affiliation and political status have been contested. Three wars, armed border conflicts and nuclear weapons on both sides are the consequences. There are also suicide bombings emanating from Pakistani territory.The conflict even involves neighboring Afghanistan. For Islamabad, a pro-Pakistani government is vital. New Delhi, on the other hand, endeavors to exploit its economic and political superiority over Pakistan and, with appropriate incentives, to bind Afghanistan to itself as a close ally.

Against this background, the traditionally close political and military cooperation between China and Pakistan (also with regard to nuclear weapons) represents an insurmountable obstacle to closer Indo-Chinese relations. Recent developments have deepened this gap. This is how the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, which is part of the OBOR initiative, runs through the Kashmir claimed by India. Even more: the planned end point of the economic corridor is the region around Gwadar, which has been granted special rights by China and has been expanded into a deep-sea port with extensive infrastructure. Even if this project is primarily aimed at the economic development of Tibet and western China, it remains crucial for New Delhi that its rival China is given direct access to the Indian Ocean. The corridor is intended to secure the vital energy imports from the Middle East, which are vital for Beijing, even in times of crisis, and to shorten transport times. It is intended to replace the sea route through the easy-to-block bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca. From the point of view of New Delhi, however, this planning not only endangers India's role as an unrestricted maritime pre-eminence and regulatory power in the region, but is also another link in a “pearl necklace” of Chinese bases in the Indian Ocean, an expression of a strategy of encirclement China is trying to "strangle" India.[4]

In view of this complex constellation, characterized by conflicts, competition and simultaneous cooperation, to strengthen its own position and to compensate for the existing imbalance of forces, the Indian government looked for new influential allies and found them primarily in the "West", which was previously rather spurned, if not fought at all. .

The Changed Role of India in US Foreign Policy

India is assigned a central role in the new global strategy of the USA. This is how Obama defined the relationship between the oldest and the largest democracy "as a crucial partnership of the 21st century". And Trump exchanged several exchanges with Indian Prime Minister Modi in the first few days of his presidency. The fact that six members of the closest government circle in the USA are of Indian origin is not only due to the extensive political and financial support for Trump's election campaign by the Republican Hindu Coalition, the spearhead of the 3.8 million Indian community in India the USA. There are also long-term economic considerations. There is already a strong, affluent middle class in India that consists of several hundred million. And in a few decades it will be the world's most populous country with one of the highest gross domestic products.[5]

That was not always so. For many decades, India was considered a typical poor house due to its above-average population growth. In Washington government circles it was seen as an opponent of the West because of its role in the non-aligned movement and, in particular, because of its traditionally rather close strategic and military ties with the Soviet Union. The end of the Cold War and the associated increasing opening of India to the world market, combined with a reduction in the role of plan and state in the economy, initially changed little. On the contrary: the atomic bomb tests of 1998 by the ultra-right Indian People's Party, the BJP, which had just come into power for the first time, provoked sharp protests and led to the imposition of economic sanctions. Pakistan soon followed suit with its own nuclear tests. The US not only feared an increase in the risk of war in the region, but also saw the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in general as endangered. Although the ineffective sanctions were lifted in 2001, the agreement concluded in 2008 between the USA and India after several years of negotiations on cooperation in the field of the civil use of nuclear energy remained controversial not only in India. Even internationally - if you think of Iran or North Korea - it does not exactly contribute to the credibility of the USA. For example, the administration of George W. Bush enforced exemptions for India against opposition from within and from the responsible international organizations. India, which signed neither the nuclear test ban treaty nor the non-proliferation treaty, was officially recognized as a (responsible) nuclear power. The bilateral agreement with the USA allows India to formally separate military and civil research into the development and use of nuclear power. What is more: New Delhi is granted the right to subject only the nuclear reactors (around two thirds) that it has classified as civil to the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.[6]

However, a fundamental change in relations between the USA and India did not take place until 2014, when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which was dominated by the Congress party, was replaced in government by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which is dominated by the Hindu nationalist people's party BJP. In addition to intergovernmental tensions, a personal problem also had to be overcome. Since 2005, the new, overwhelmingly elected party and government leader, Narendra Modi, has been banned from entering the USA. The reason for this was the many victims of an anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002, for which he, as the head of government of the state at the time, was charged with complicity. But with the 2014 elections, things changed very quickly on both sides. Several reciprocal state visits, crowned by Modi's speeches to the US Congress and Obama's invitation as a guest of honor to the independence celebrations in New Delhi, symbolize the change in strategy. The basis is the realization that there are now a number of common interests that form the basis of the “Pivot to Asia” or the “Act East Policy”. Commitments for extensive private and public investments in India and increased economic cooperation were supplemented by further agreements in the military field. The lifting of export restrictions for "dual-use technologies" initiated by George W. Bush resulted in the ambitious Defense Technology and Trade Initiative. It soon materialized in several projects for joint weapons production. This further strengthened the military-technological partnership between the two countries.[7] In 2015, Obama and Modi agreed on a joint strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean, which, among other things, was concretized in 2016 with a new bilateral “maritime security dialogue”. It takes shape in mutual participation in naval or air force maneuvers. Finally, the Logistics Services Agreement of August 2016, which allows the military in both countries to use military equipment and logistics on both sides, is of particular importance and thus seals a “permanent network in the security sector”.

Against this background, a relative weakening of the old Moscow-New Delhi axis is foreseeable: Traditional military cooperation will continue to exist and has even been intensified in some areas such as arms research and weapons development in recent years. However, it does not prevent closer military and technological cooperation between India and the USA and between India and Israel and, more recently, France, which is evident in the arms trade, among other things. Just because of its uranium supplies and the nuclear power plants built with its help, Russia will remain an important partner for India in the future, especially when it comes to expanding nuclear power. But these are sectoral collaborations in an increasingly differentiated network of technological, economic, diplomatic and military agreements and partnerships, according to the respective national interests.

Tectonic change in geopolitics

With the increasing weakening of formerly central geopolitical antagonisms, traditional alliances and historically determined blocs are becoming increasingly less important if they do not even become obsolete. There is no more either / or. On the contrary: the pursuit of national interests prohibits joining dualistic and confrontational alliances on a global scale and requires alternating selective cooperation depending on the problem and self-interest. Interstate competition with simultaneous cooperation characterizes geopolitics in globalized neoliberalism. This also applies to India as a rising world power. That is why, despite all the serious bilateral conflicts in the Federation of BRICS countries and in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in which even Pakistan is represented, there is continuous cooperation between New Delhi and various countries, including China. This works as long as it serves the interests of its individual members, for example in the fight against terrorism, in securing their energy supply or in the reform of the Bretton Woods and UN institutions. All the better if these forms of coordination and cooperation also benefit other countries in the so-called Third World.

In Asia in particular, the changing global balance of power has not only weakened the traditional security architecture that is focused on the USA, but has at the same time opened up old conflicts and new rivalries between individual regional powers. The difficult relationship with the emerging regional superpower China is another complicating factor, supplemented by growing competition for markets and spheres of influence as well as conflicting territorial claims. The dispute is about the question of which country different archipelagos in the China Sea (Senkaku, Diaoyu, Spratly and Paracel Islands) belong to, about the control of sea routes, maritime economic zones, overflight zones and military bases etc. In this way, a series of complex regional disputes has turned into a far-reaching geopolitical conflict in which the People's Republic of China and Taiwan are currently at the center (Pohle 2016). While Beijing, from his point of view, represents legitimate economic and security policy interests here, the regional states directly affected perceive China's behavior as the expansionism of a great power motivated by power politics and are preparing to take action against it in the name of international law and "freedom of the seas". An unusual quartet consisting of the USA, Australia, Japan and India have come together against their common rival China. They held naval maneuvers together in the South China Sea.

Neoliberalism has softened the old order under the dominance of the West. But the hope for a multipolar world order determined by the UN and international law is premature. The process of transformation takes place through the reconstitution of the nation states and the pursuit of national interests as the primary state goal. The competition and confrontation of all against all that goes along with it will be carried out by all conceivable peaceful means, including military means if necessary. The disappointed expectations of a peace dividend after the end of the Cold War prove this only too clearly. Arms spending is increasing worldwide and the arms trade is flourishing. This is especially true in the Middle East and Asia. At the same time, a growing militarization of international relations can be observed in general,[8] a new era of (regional) world order conflicts.

India is no exception: with a share of 13 percent of global arms imports, the country is currently at the top. His relationship with the USA is determined by his world power ambitions. Precisely because of its relative decline, the USA is an ideal partner for India, which is fighting for greater strategic autonomy in the struggle to reorganize the international system. The advantages are mutual: with China in focus, India is about a place in the sun and the USA is about a strategic ally in regaining global supremacy.


CIA, 2017, The World Factbook, at: www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bf.html

Neelsen, John P., 2016: Conflict-ridden change to a multipolar world - The BRICS and the Shanghai Organization for Cooperation, in: Lühr, Henken (ed.), Ways out of war logic - for a new peace policy, Kassel, 209–223

Ders., 2014: The Empire Strikes Back: TTIP versus BRICS, in: Sozialismus, 12/2014, 2–9

O'Neill, Jim, 2001, Building Better Global Economic BRICs, Goldman Sachs, Global Economics Paper No. 66, www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/archive/archive-pdfs/build-better-brics.pdf

Pcw Global, 2015, The World in 2050. Will the shift in global economic power continue ?, www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/the-economy/assets/world-in-2050-february-2015.pdf

Pohle, Lutz, 2016: New round in the conflict over the South China Sea, ed. by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Standpunkte 20/2016, Berlin, www.rosalux.de/fileadmin/rls_uploads/pdfs/Standpunkte/Standpunkte_20-2016.pdf

Rilling, Rainer, 2016: Trump: On the way to a new power block, in: LuXemburg online, November 2016, www.zeitschrift-luxemburg.de/trump-auf-dem-weg-zu-einem-neuen-machtblock/

Schmalz, Stefan / Ebenau, Matthias, 2011: On the go - Brazil, India and China. On social transformation in times of crisis, ed. from the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, row twenty-one, vol. 4, Berlin, www.rosalux.de/publikation/id/4921/auf-dem-sprung-brasilien-verbindungen-und-china/

SIPRI, 2017, The Global Arms Trade: Assessing Trends and Future Outlook, www.sipri.org/events/2017/global-arms-trade-assessing-trends-and-future-outlook


[1] This loss of the share of the G7 countries in the global product since 1990 is mainly due to Europe and Japan. In contrast, the US share has since stagnated at around a quarter, after having made up 50 percent in the years after the Second World War.

In return, the share of the G7 countries has fallen from around two thirds in 2000 to 44 percent in 2016. Their share of the world population is now barely more than 10 percent and continues to decline.

[3] The latest projections confirm Goldman Sachs' 1999/2001 projections. The seven largest emerging countries, in addition to the BRICS also Turkey, Indonesia and Mexico, then caught up with the G7 countries in 2015 and their economic power will double that of the G7 by 2040 (see Pcw Global 2015; CIA 2017 and O'Neill 2015).

[4] The model is the Turkish pasha, who gave his disgraced top officials and military a pearl necklace as an unspoken death sentence and an invitation to hang himself. With the string of pearls In addition to agreements with Pakistan, this means special agreements between China and Sri Lanka, Myanmar, the Maldives and Nepal.

[5] See www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/economy/the-world-in-2050.html

[6] This agreement, signed by the US and India, is often referred to as the US-Indian nuclear deal. For content and criticism see www.cfr.org/india/us-india-nuclear-deal/p9663.

[7] For example, the volume of arms trade between the two countries has risen from one billion to 14 billion US dollars since 2008 (cf. on this and for further details www.firstpost.com/india/pentagon-credits-ashton-carter-with-spearheading -deepening-of-india-us-defense-cooperation-3147924.html).

[8] Then Asia and Oceania (with India at the top) have been the largest arms importers since 2012 (plus 43%). This includes the construction of a THAAD missile shield in South Korea by the USA (officially directed against North Korea, but in fact intended for air traffic control in China) or the encouragement from President Trump to Seoul and Tokyo to get their own A-weapons take care to see.