Trump and Modi will be 'best friends': adviser to U.S. president-elect

The U.S. president-elect will be “best friends” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an adviser to Donald Trump told Reuters in a telephone interview.

President of the Republican Hindu Coalition Shalabh Kumar gestures during a news conference in New Delhi, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files

Shalabh Kumar, an Indian émigré businessman, is Trump's point person for outreach to Indian-American voters.

The Chicago-based Kumar emigrated from India in 1969 and founded the Republican Hindu Coalition, a political interest group, last year.

Kumar spoke to Reuters a day after Trump's election as the 45th U.S. president.

Kumar said Trump’s priorities as president include:

- Cutting business taxes from 35 percent to 15 percent
- Repatriating offshore capital for a small fee
- Imposing a tax or duty on companies that shut down a factory, take it outside the country and then import the products
- Reducing regulations
- Getting rid of Obama executive orders

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q: What was the key to Donald Trump’s victory?

A: We are obviously very confident as to what the mood of the country is, as well as the intelligence of our electorate. House Speaker Paul Ryan put it very eloquently when he said that there was a voice, a murmur throughout the United States which the Democrats did not hear and which, for the most part, the Republicans ignored.

Donald Trump had this unbelievable ability to listen to this sound and to judge the mood of the country. He understood that the electorate was fed up with the status quo, their economic status, their lack of job security, college education and their children not getting proper jobs. Three in four college graduates are not finding a job. Wages are stagnant. Obamacare costs are going through the roof.

There was so much discontent in the country that he was able to lead, and that establishment politicians were not able to lead.

Q: What will his priorities be during the transition and first 100 days?

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A: The first thing is to tap the talent in the country - he has repeatedly said that in private and in public. There is a ton of business talent in the country.

Politicians have appointed trade negotiators who have never run a hot dog stand. When you have smart businessmen running departments, whether it’s Treasury, Commerce or Trade the results will be different.

Q: How will the fiscal math work? Does it add up?

A: I am passionate about this subject - to reduce spending while increasing services. Reaganomics was successful in the 1980s - that got copied throughout the world.

Q: How will Trump get on with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

A: They will be best friends - not only the two nations will be best friends, but these two guys will be best friends. Donald Trump knows about Modi through me. He is very keen to learn about Modi.

A meeting would come a little bit later - he has too much of an aggressive agenda, too many wrongs have been done to the nation that need to be sorted out.

Q: Will Trump’s position on trade affect India?

A: First of all, he’s not opposed to free trade at all - he is a free trade, free enterprise person. But he will want a fair trade deal.

My belief is that trade with India is going to increase when you have a fair trade deal. Business that supports him is innovative and creative in expanding trade with India. I expect trade to double to $250 billion within one to two years.

Q: And what about South Asian security in the context of India’s rivalry with Pakistan?

A: He calls out the camel in the room when nobody else does. He already talks about cross-border terrorism -- he is the first president to do so, essentially acknowledging that Pakistan is a perpetrator of terrorism.

What I expect from him is a full expression of support for the surgical strikes that Modi ordered. The war against radical Islam is going to be properly prosecuted. He is going to find great partnership with India in that.