Special Forum

Donald Trump’s ascension to the Oval Office has not buffeted US-India ties to the same extent as it has American relations with other key powers. In part, this is because Trump was elected on a wave of sentiments not dissimilar to those that powered Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory in India’s 2014 elections: an anti-establishment impulse among voters who wanted decisive political change, the discrediting of a metropolitan political elite, new forms of mobilization made possible by social media, and nationalist populism. More broadly, however, for nearly two decades US-India ties have grown cumulatively deeper despite repeated changes of government on both sides, leading to some assurance in Washington and New Delhi that a relationship that started from a low base but developed rapidly is institutionalized enough to withstand personality changes at the leadership level in both countries. US-India ties since the late 1990s have been driven as much by compulsions such as China’s rise and defeating terrorism as by intrinsic factors. Those external drivers have only grown stronger over time, driving relations between Washington and New Delhi to new heights under a diversity of leaders that includes Atul Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh, and Modi on the Indian side and George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Trump in the United States.

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