Gasps of surprise at US Embassy over close Trump-Clinton contest

New Delhi, Nov 9 (IANS) The US Embassy here was abuzz with activity since early morning on Wednesday as the close contest between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton during the counting of votes in the US presidential elections surprised many who came visiting.

The lawn of US Ambassador to India Richard Verma’s residence at the Roosevelt House, within the embassy precincts in the Chanakyapuri diplomatic enclave here, was decked up with a giant screen providing live updates on the counting of votes cast during the November 8 presidential election.

Both Verma and another US official said that US-India relations were bound to grow, irrespective of who eventually won the close contest.

Staff and guests thronged the venue since early morning hours. As updates continued to pour in, the neck-and-neck race only deepened the suspense over the eventual winner.

Many expressed surprise over the really close contest.

“We expected the competition to be close, but we are a bit surprised how close it (really) is,” said Katie Walker, the Programme Director of Indo-Genius.

The lawn was festooned with thousands of balloons of blue, white and red hues, as well as ones with the American flag. Life-sized cutouts of both Clinton and Trump stood at two ends of the lawn, with visitors lining up to click photographs with them.

Interestingly, even as Trump promised during his campaign to impose a 45 per cent tariff on Chinese imports if elected, the caps with red, white and blue colours of the American flag distributed on the occasion were made in China.

As it became clear that Trump was going to pip Clinton to the post, murmurs laced with disappointment as well as gasps of sheer surprise filled the air.

Embassy staff and officials, however, maintained neutrality amid the hum, maintaining they will serve whoever is elected the US President.

While opinion polls had largely forecast Clinton’s victory, Deputy Chief Of Mission MaryKay Loss Carlson said many Americans were not ready to tip their cards and hence the opinion polls went wrong.

“I fear opinion polls this time were misleading. Some people may not be able to admit they are against a woman candidate; or some may not admit they are pro-Clinton or pro-Trump,” she said.

“Just like Brexit where in opinion polls people did not want to admit they were pro-Brexit,” she said in reference to the referendum in the United Kingdom over the country’s exit from European Union.

Carlson said the elections were “historic”, as it was a first when a woman candidate came so close to being elected the US President.

Strategic expert C. Raja Mohan, present at the embassy, said the US is a complex county.

“The US is a complex country and very diverse like India. This election is important because three ideas of US are being challenged. First, that capitalism will work for everyone… here we had a candidate (Trump) saying the working class will rally behind him. Second is about free trade and open border… Trump is questioning that. And third is about America being the policeman… Trump is questioning that as well,” he said.

While Trump’s campaign had an anti-globalisation tone, George N. Sibley, Minister Counsellor, Economic, Environment, Science and Technology Affairs at the American Embassy, said a change in the trade policy is expected to be only moderate.

“India and the US have both benefited from an open trade regime. So, I will anticipate only moderate changes,” Sibley told IANS.

“In terms of India, there seems to be a broad consensus this is an important, valuable and meaningful relationship for both countries and it should continue and grow,” Sibley said.

Ambassador Verma also said the bilateral relations were only going to grow.

“The gains in the US-India relations for decades have been on bi-partisan basis, with Republican as well as Democrat Presidents, and different parties controlling the House and the Senate. I would even say that the US-India relationship is now a non-partisan issue,” Verma said.

Verma, an American of Indian origin, also congratulated Kamala Harris, who made history by becoming the first Indian American to be elected to the US Senate.

“We offer special congratulations to Senator Kamala Harris on her election,” the US Ambassador said.