By Vinson Xavier Palathingal*
The United States is heading to the polls on November 8 to elect its 45th President. As it is universally settled by now, the options American people have this time around are very limited. Both the candidates are extremely divisive and controversial, and most voters will cast their votes ‘against’ the opponent of their choice, than ‘for’ their choice.
Let us start with the historic candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. She has impressively made history as the first woman to win the presidential nomination for a major US political party. As a candidate of the ‘establishment’, most Democrats and many establishment Republicans, including former Republican Presidents such as the Bushes, former candidates like Mitt Romney and business magnets like Warren Buffet and Michael Bloomberg, have lined up behind her. Her supporters believe that she is a better option mostly because she will maintain the status quo, whereas her outsider opponent and change candidate Donald Trump is not at all tested and very unpredictable, and has a ton of temperament issues. So, for whoever is okay with the status quo, and especially since the alternative Mr. Trump seems to be too risky, it is easy to conclude that Clinton is their choice. Majority Indians, whether they are in India, America or other parts of the world, seem to subscribe to the same philosophy. This article will briefly assess some of her positions, especially with the Indian national interest as well as the interests and preferences of the Indian American community, to see how she fares.
On economy front, most experts believe that Clinton’s policies will result in tax increases, reducing the incentive to work, save and invest. Obama increased taxes by $1.7 trillion to fund his welfare initiatives that he believes will make the world a fair place. Clinton too has proposed bolder welfare agenda, to make it fairer for the poor and suffering, without clearly articulating where the money is going to come from. Clinton is expected to continue Obama policies, and in a tight money situation, it will be foolish for anyone to expect that taxes will go down under her watch. She talks highly about small businesses without any specific viable proposals to help them. If we go by the aftermath of Obama Care for small businesses, which will stay under Clinton presidency, small businesses cannot expect any dramatic improvement in their situation. Employer’s health insurance premiums skyrocketed, resulting in most small businesses dropping their insurance coverage, making them less attractive for prospective employees. Small businesses play a vital economic role in the US. In 2012, according to US Census Bureau data, there were 5.73 million employer firms in the country. Firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7 percent of those businesses, and businesses with less than 20 workers made up 89.6 per cent. Most Indian American businesses being such small businesses, and most Indian American workers being in high income brackets, Clinton’s economic policies will have direct adverse impact on the financial wellbeing of Indian Americans.
On the ethics front, everyone knows that Clinton had different stories for different audience, when it came to Benghazi debacle. On the ongoing email server controversy too, Clinton lied about what she knew, what she deleted, what was classified, so on and so forth. Wiki Leaks coming out on a daily basis shows how Hillary used her status as the Secretary of State to raise money for her private trust, the Clinton Foundation, and how she used the party machinery to destroy her primary opponent Bernie Sanders, to name a few. It is a matter of national security, and to an extent, international security. While Benghazi shows a level of immaturity in crisis situations, her private email servers are indeed a sign of ignorance and/or negligence, and the content of her secret emails shows her lack of respect for law and how different the real Clinton’s beliefs are from her public positions on issues.
Clinton’s track record when it comes to India, contrary to popular belief, is not seen to be friendly, but rather corrosive. A long-time ally and major donor of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Robin Raphel, was at the centre of an FBI counterintelligence probe in the last two years. She was a registered foreign agent for the Pakistani government up until just days before she was appointed to run the US State Department’s Pakistan aid team. Raphel’s emphasis on providing Pakistan with military aid and construction of oil line in Afghanistan for supply to Pakistan, her characterisation of Kashmir as a disputed territory and her lobbying for separatists in Jammu and Kashmir made her a target of criticism in India. Raphel also sided with Sikh separatists and persuaded Clintons to support them. As part of spying investigation, FBI had searched her home and her security clearance had been revoked, though in March 2016, the investigation was closed without any charges being filed.
The Clintons US of the 90s showed an irrational curiosity to equate India and Pakistan, whether in connection with the sanctions, nuclear policy, presidential visit or military aid, in spite of growing Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. Rose Law Firm in Arkansas headed by Hillary Clinton was the official lobbying firm for Pakistan in the US. The firm brought Bank of Credit and Commercial International (BCCI) to the US, a corrupt bank notorious for housing many dark channels and criminal finance networks. It was started in 1972 by two Pakistani bankers. Clinton was one of the two individuals involved as legal representation for BCCI. Criminal investigations uncovered that BCCI was laundering money for Middle Eastern terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden. This bank has directly financed almost all the major terrorist plots in the 1990s, including 9/11.
Obama has done extremely well to facilitate the advancement of strategic partnership with India under both PMs, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. But his administration has shown weakness when it comes to Pakistan, and maybe the remnant of the Clintons Pakistan friendship circles is to be blamed. Despite having evidence of Pakistan’s malicious activities, aid has continued to flow to Pakistan. In turn, Pakistan uses a big chunk of this money to buy weapons from the US, an extremely counter intuitive process. The remainder of the aid is used to take part in and sponsor illicit/violent activities everywhere, especially India.
This also leads to the question of the numerous and high-amount donations to the Clinton Foundation from the Middle East. Irrespective of Clinton’s extent of involvement, her associations and actions with the Arab world shout a lack of foresight. Clinton’s ignorance thereof has led to several tragedies and miscalculations, for which many Americans have paid with their lives.
With folks such as Huma Abedin and Robin Raphel as her trusted allies, and Clinton herself having the history of leading a firm that officially lobbied for Pakistan, the access to a Clinton-occupied White House will be obviously much easier for Pakistanis than for Indians. The huge progress in the Indo-American relations achieved during the last 16 years under Bush and Obama that we all have worked so hard for, may suffer some reversals under Clinton. The US is now projecting India as a counter to China and as a world player, while Pakistan is regularly admonished by US lawmakers for being the Mecca of terrorism. India does not want any reversal of the progress, and given Clinton’s penchant for Pakistan, India would have to remain utmost vigilant under a Clinton Presidency.
*Vinson Xavier Palathingal is the Executive Director of Indo-American Center, Washington DC.
This article is a reproduction of the presentation done by the author at the International Conference on US Presidential Election 2016 organised by CPPR-Centre for Strategic Studies. Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of Centre for Public Policy Research.
This is the first article in this two-part series. Please click here to read the second part