Hillary Clinton, throughout her political career, has tended toward more aggressive stances on foreign policy issues. Contrary to many of her democrat counterparts, she voted for the AUMF against Iraq in 2002, pushed for US involvement in Libya against el-Qaddafi’s regime in 2012, and has continued to unconditionally support Israel (US-Israeli ties have deteriorated under the Obama Administration). She also initiated a policy towards India “to ‘get Narendra Modi’ – ostensibly for the 2002 Gujarat riots, but in actuality ‘for taking stands that may be different from that favoured by the US administration” (Nalapat 2014). She is the projected democratic nominee and is leading against Donald Trump in most polls for the Presidency. So, if another Clinton goes to the White House, how might US foreign policy decisions involving South Asia be affected?

In an article written by the former Secretary of State for Foreign Policy, she suggested a greater presence in the Asia-Pacific region would benefit the United States: “one of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will… be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region”. Such an American investment could certainly be viewed as an encroachment on Chinese investments and influence in the region (dubbed the string of pearls) and India’s regional dominance. To remedy this, Hillary will continue to avoid more traditional diplomacy. As opposed to funding railroad or highway projects, drafting trade agreements, opening new shipping lanes, or imposing sanctions, Hillary will rely heavily on non-traditional diplomacy to secure US national interest. In fact, a retired US official said “Hillary Clinton likes to operate through NGOs, which are given funding through indirect channels, and which target individuals and countries seen as less than respectful to her views on foreign and domestic policy in target countries” (Nalapat 2014). As secretary of State, she attempted this type of intervention to delegitimize Indian Prime Minister Modi in 2002 by funding NGOs to facilitate searches for mass graves that would serve as evidence of genocide. No bodies were found.

Clinton took other internationalist positions on issues in South Asia as Secretary of State. For instance, she defended Mohammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, when the Bangladeshi government forced him to step down. As a seemingly politically-motivated ousting, Clinton publicly denounced the Bangladeshi government’s actions at a press release in Dhaka. Therefore, I expect a Clinton administration will do more to speak out for and fund civil society actors in South Asia in ways that are conducive to US national interest. Of course, as President, her own Secretary of State will have their own, albeit similar, courses of action. Regardless, the imminent Clinton Administration will certainly be a force to be reckoned with.

by Kove Janeski (Intern, RCSS)