The pitch for a second term

The Trump strategy seems to focus on internal progress and in pursuit of peace abroad in unconventional ways
Today, there is expectation that U.S. President Donald Trump will not only complete his term but also win a second term in 2020. But not so long ago, the demand to impeach Mr. Trump on the charge of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential electoral process arose within weeks after his largely unexpected victory in 2016. Many believed he would not complete his term as accusations gathered momentum, which culminated in the Mueller report — it had enough material to indict the President. The Presidency came close to one constitutional crisis after another, but the President used the same report to claim there was no collusion or cover-up.
While the Democratic challengers to the President have multiplied with each passing day there are no serious Republican contenders even though many in the Grand Old Party believe that the President has undermined the party. While age was an issue when Mr. Trump offered his candidature first the same issue is now in the President’s favour today as the two serious contenders, namely Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, are older than him. second term.
Mr. Trump has gone beyond expectation in the case of India when he exerted pressure on Pakistan to release the Indian prisoner of war, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, from Pakistan’s custody, thus stopping an escalation in conflict during the India-Pakistan stand-off in 2019. Similarly, China was told that the international community would not tolerate inaction anymore in the case of Masood Azhar. In both these cases, Mr. Trump has demonstrated a clear pro-Indian stand vis-à-vis Pakistan and China. But when it came to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Mr. Trump unabashedly feted Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington in July, promising mediation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. Russian missiles, Iran and trade imbalance are the irritants in India-U.S. relations.
On China too, the evolving U.S. position appears to be paradoxical. The trade war appears negotiable as there does not seem to be a strategy to strangle China. The way China has relented on the Masood Azhar issue shows that China is sensitive to the U.S. position. China does not seem to put any pressure on the U.S. when it comes to North Korea. China also does not sense much pressure from the U.S. to contain it in the Indo-Pacific, with the Quadrilateral having receded into the background. The U.S.’s western allies are expressing concern that Mr. Trump is deviating from foreign policy priorities such as countering China and Russia and instead focussing on nations that pose no real threat to the West such as Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. The Democrats believe that such shifts will damage the credibility of the U.S. with its European allies in the long term as the Europeans are likely to cultivate other powers. Among the countries named as being agitated about the U.S. policy are Turkey, South Korea, Japan and India.
Behind Mr. Trump’s perplexing ‘America First’ policy, there seems to be a clear game plan for the President to secure a second term by focussing on internal progress and peace abroad in unconventional ways, without paying attention to the consequences for the U.S. and the world beyond 2020.
T.P. Sreenivasan, a former diplomat, is Chairman, Academic Council and Director, NSS Academy of Civil Services. He is also the Director General, Kerala International Centre, Thiruvananthapuram

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