What Donald Trump’s inaugural address means for India

‘Guys, there is one Donald Trump, there is one speech’ screamed a Guardian op-ed shortly after Trump took over as the 45th President of the United States. His close-to 17 minute inaugural speech was shorn of the oratory we had become accustomed to expect from a US President over the past eight years. Instead, it was typically Trump – nationalism on steroids – appealing to his core group of voters in the Rust and Bible belts. If anyone thought Trump would mellow or carry forward from his surprisingly modest acceptance speech shortly after winning the elections, they were in for a surprise.

Like his numerous campaign speeches, Trump painted a picture of gloom and doom, and hope for radical redemption during his reign. The only difference from his stump speeches was that ‘I will make the change’ was tweaked to project that it is people power that will be the harbinger of the US’ makeover Trump claims he can make happen.

While Americans will figure out how Trump’s ‘bigly’ claims materialise in reality, his vision for the future is likely to have ramifications for other countries, including India. Taking a stance, far adrift that of conservative Republicans, Trump batted for protectionism saying “Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength”. This is the direct opposite of the message of globalisation the Western World has espoused for the past half-century or so. Can Trump really turn the clock back at a time when the world is increasingly getting connected, and collaborations in technology and resource sharing are happening at a micro level? Trump’s strategy of America First with its associated mantra of ‘Buy American and Hire American’ reflects a narrow, zero-sum game vision in trade policy, which isn’t the case in a co-dependent world.

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