Wednesday, December 2, 2020

How should India look at Biden?

Now that Joseph  Biden is certain to take over the reins of administration in January next from President Trump, India and other democratic countries in the world can look forward to a saner and constructive  US government. The language of the democratic dispensation would be more calibrated and sober than the outgoing Republican government. Although President Donald Trump had lost the election, the divisive culture he brought with him is not going to go out with him. The fact that Biden had got only 50 lakh more votes than Trump and the later had got as many as seven crore people to vote for him at the end of his disastrous term  shows that the Trumpism is going to bother the American politics and society for some more time. The division that was brought about in the people’s psyche is not easy to be bridged.

Trump, a victim of carona virus

The reckless attitude Trump administration had adopted towards the Covid-19 epidemic making the US the most affected country in the world, with all its advancement in healthcare, the declining economy and the loss of international standing should have resulted in a huge electoral defeat for the Republicans. But the fact that almost half of the voters had voted for Trump shows the division Trump had brought about is there to stay. The protest demonstrations by Trump’s follower are louder than the celebrations by Biden’s admirers.  Trump’s defeat is a good riddance for Americans and the democrats all over the world. He is such a buffoon, silly, cantankerous bully of a person that it was a surprise that  an advanced society like the US had not only  tolerated for four years but almost got him elected for the second term. The media representatives who abruptly cut out Trump’s  press conference where he was lying left, right and centre had given indication to the future developments.

What would be Biden’s effect on India-US relations?

Joe Biden has been a friend of India even before he became Obama’s deputy. He supported India-US nuclear deal as chairman of Senate’s foreign relations committee. He said in 2006 said that by 2020 the two closest countries on the planet would be India and the US. He had that vision and love for India. He was in favour of developing strategic ties with India. India’s proximity with the US in naval cooperation and other military engagements would be continued. Trump had been supporting India openly and vociferously talking against China for the last six months of India’s stand-off with China in Ladakh. Biden may not be that vocal in his support to India but there has been a sort of consensus between Democrats and Republicans as far as China is concerned. Both parties view China as a rival and a threat.

Indian leaders rude to Democrats

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who shares common features with Donald Trump in many aspects, had openly supported second term for Trump by sharing the dais with the US president both in Houston and Ahmedabad rallies. It was vitual endorsement of Trump’s candidacy by Modi. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar had given a snub to the House Foreign Relations Committee headed by Democrats. Modi was one of the world leaders to call and congratulate  Biden. National interests would persuade Modi to change the track and get closer to the new dispensation. Any American president would like to have close relations with india given the international situation today. There is no need to persuade a leader like Biden who has been a great supporter of India.  

Immigration problems would go away

There are two issues worrying Indians in general and Indian government in particular. The main cause of worry for Indians was the immigration policy followed by Trump which was anti-immigrant and so anti-Indian. Trump had thoroughly discouraged  Indians to migrate to the US by making it difficult for them to get visas and jobs. Biden, in contrast, would be in favour of issuing family-based visas and H1B visas. He would also increase the number of green cards to be issued in a year. Democrats generally are in favour of migration. The youngsters who want to go to the US for studies and jobs would be finding  a hassle-free pathway.  

J&K, CAA and NCR are  tough issues to negotiate

The main worry for the government of India would be Biden’s policy towards Jammu & Kashmir. Trump’s administration had supported Modi government when it revoked Article 370 doing away with special privileges enjoyed by the State of Jammu and Kashmir, enactment of Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Trump administration had issued some perfunctory statements but did not really object to the drastic measures taken by Modi administration. Biden would be tough in subjects like this and his deputy Kamala Harris is known for her fierce advocacy of human rights. Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have a tough time explaining the initiatives he has taken in Kashmir where the human rights have been trampled and the statehood has been annulled. The Congress party has been more forthcoming in congratulating Biden and Kamala than the BJP. Kamala, in particular, would be in league with human rights activists in India and elsewhere.

Would return to Paris accord, talk with Iran

Biden would surely undo certain drastic decisions taken by Trump such as walking out of Paris climate accord. The US would be returning to Paris accord as well as negotiations with Iran on nuclear deal. Biden would not stop the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan since it was his proposal during Obama presidency which was not followed. On China also Biden would not be as harsh and aggressive as Trump. The new president would try to reposition his country where it belonged before Trump had disturbed it.

For deeper relations with India

In trade, Biden may be more reasonable than Trump. Biden would like to have deeper relationship with India. “As the world’s oldest and largest democracies, the US and India are bound together by our shared democratic values, fair and free elections, equality under the law and freedom of expression and religion,” said Biden’s campaign committee’s policy paper.  The paper said, “Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India had taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) in Assam and the passage of Citizenship (Amendment) Act into law.” Governments may have problems but they are sure to pursue the strategic goals and wading off the common threats.

How should India look at Biden?

How would Biden deal with China, Pak?

Pakistan honoured Biden with its greatest civilian award. But Biden is shrewd enough to understand that Pakistan is not any more reliable as it has developed  deep relationship with China leaving the US behind. He would not make the mistake of former presidents of treating India and Pakistan on par. China’s aggressive nature and its arrogant behavior to dictate terms to other countries had made a lot of difference. The alliance of four countries – US, Japan, Australia and India – is going to stay and get strengthened. Going back on China policy would be difficult for the new president and any attempt to do so will be counterproductive.

Modi needs to adjust to the reality

Overall, the change of guards in Washington is something the democratic countries the world over should welcome. Trump’s loss is a certain setback for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who developed an emotional bond with Trump. The foreign policy of America may not undergo a drastic change under Biden. Modi has to adjust his responses to the changed situation in Washington. Trump’s defeated may be treated as a warning bell by Modi. The Bihar election result on Tuesday would make the roadmap clear by indicating if the extreme rightists  are in trouble all over the world.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor

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