Issue :   
July 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         June 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:May' 2018


Singapore summit : Unpredictable outcomes

S. Narendra

Kim Jong with Donald Trump
The summit of President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore was historic and deservedly stole the international media headlines in June. A very cryptic document was signed in which North Korean committed to ‘denuclearization’ of the Peninsula and ‘to put the past behind’ . The US offered in return ‘security guarantee’ to North Korea and its leader.

At his post-summit press conference, a jubilant President Trump made an announcement that took his regional allies and his defence and foreign policy team completely by surprise. The President told the media that he had decided to stop the regular joint US and South Korea troops’ training drills. This had been the long standing demand of North Korea, China and Russia. He went on to call the drills as ‘war games’, ’provocative’. He hoped to withdraw some day in the future American troops stationed in the region for 60 odd years.

In another aside, the President Trump revealed that he had shown to Kim a video of what other benefits, including infrastructure, real estate development, condos on its beaches, that his country could gain from turning into a peaceful country. The US, Japan, China and South Korea could all become partners in this new North Korea development for business.

The American commentators concluded that their President had conceded to Kim too much, too early. The so-called Singapore agreement, they said, was no different from the one North Korea had signed in 1992. A candid President Trump himself admitted to the media that he could be proved wrong in his judgment of North Korea’s commitment to turn a new leaf but he had met Kim halfway in the interest of global peace.

The Korean peninsula jutting into the north Pacific is geopolitically strategic. The two Koreas, Japan, China and Russia are all close regional neighbours. By stationing its troops in South Korea and Japan, the US not only offers its nuclear umbrella to its allies but projects its military and political power in this part of the Pacific. Indirectly, the American presence in the region offers Washington’s protection to seven ASEAN nations and Australia and New Zealand.

From the Singapore outcome, one could discern a few portents for other far away regions. Having donned the peace-maker robe, President Trump could push Iran to the brink. Since North Korea bent to US threats and sanctions, he may expect Iran to cave in under his pressure. But President Trump is ignoring that both Beijing and Moscow played the US game in brining Pyongyang to the table.

The hawkish White House under Jewish influence could also try to promote the One-state solution to the dispute between Israel and Palestine. President Trump had defied his allies in Europe and the Middle East in moving the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.

Very cleverly President Trump imposed $50 billion duties on a variety of Chinese imports, soon after signing with North Korean leader Kim Jongun an agreement on denuclearization- an agreement that would not have come about without China prodding Kim.

Trade War impact

In pursuing his ‘America First’ policy, President Trump has launched a full scale trade war with his European allies and major trading partners like China. Very cleverly President Trump imposed $50 billion duties on a variety of Chinese imports, soon after signing with North Korean leader Kim Jong UN an agreement on denuclearization -- an agreement that would not have come about without China prodding Kim.

Trump and his other G-7 partners meeting in Canada a day before his historic meeting with Kim, exchanged strong words of disagreement never heard before. The President has been regularly attacking trading partners on the ground that they have exploited the US export market, causing America to suffer a $800 billion trade deficit.

A group of Taliban personnel greet Afghan people amid a three-day ceasefire on the second day of Eid al Fitr in Paktia.
Conveniently, he ignored the fact that American consumers and manufacturers are the beneficiaries of imports, such as steel, aluminium, electronics and a wide range of consumers goods. Commentators worry that their President’s trade war would go to affect domestic job growth that had been on unprecedented upward trajectory for nearly five years.

The immediate direct effect of US trade protection steps, according to experts, is not likely to affect India enjoying a big trade surplus. His restrictive visa regime has, however, forced Indian IT exporters to shift operations to the US and hire locals. This has led to constriction of Indian IT job market.India is the eigth large trading partner of the US, with pharmaceutical and gems trade dominating the goods export.

But India may feel the negative impact of the US trade war that reduces global trade playing a significant role in ensuring healthy global growth. There could be other concerns as well -on account of American federal reserve raising interest rates. The European Central Bank is also moving to up the interest rates. Such moves would make external commercial borrowing by Indian firms expensive. As US money market becomes more attractive, this again could negatively impact the Indian stock market.

But there is something bigger and more sinister seems to be behind President Trump’s complaints relating to exporters. He wants to use their trade vulnerability for getting their tacit support for his political and diplomacy agenda. That’s something India has to watch out.

Taliban & Afghanistan

The Taliban announced a three day ceasefire around Eid –al Fitr. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wanted the ceasefire to extend to a longer period. .The pictures one saw of how the ceasefire has worked should cause serious concerns in New Delhi and elsewhere. The photos showed the Taliban mingling with Afghan soldiers and civilians.

While the festival ceasefire was welcomed by Afghan people, experts on Taliban tactics worried that the Taliban may be using the temporary truce to mingle and mix with people and infiltrate area claimed to have been cleared of Taliban terror outfits. While in Kabul one saw Taliban and Afghan soldiers freely mixing, elsewhere in Jalalaband in northern Afghanistan terrorist attack had killed dozens of people.

The Taliban leaders want to have a summit with President Trump, just as the North Korean Kim had in Singapore before talking to the Afghan government. Given President Trump’s desire to reduce the engagement of American forces abroad, especially in the losing war in Afghanistan, he may agree once he is in the re -election campaign mode.