Editorial✍ Hindu Edi

Biden, India & Comfort in the old normal

  • With the results of the U.S. Democratic candidate Joe Biden seizing the lead in the presidential elections the attention in India turns to what kind of foreign policy changes he will bring to India-U.S. relations.
  • The article analyses how in general; India could still be in a sweet spot / stand to benefit if there is a political change and a new administration in the U.S.

How will Mr. Biden’s Victory affect India – U.S Relations?

  • Specific policies of Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump in the international arena may not differ as much as their political styles and their ideologies do. For example:
    • In 2009, building an alternative plan to Afghanistan, to present to U.S. Generals pushing for the surge of up to 400,000 troops to win the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Biden suggested that the U.S. did not need more troops; instead it needed to pull out, and focus on a five-point agenda for what he called “Counter-terrorism Plus”.
    • A decade later, it was President Donald Trump who picked up ideas similar to the Biden plan, when he ordered a large-scale pullout of U.S. troops, limited U.S. presence at bases and its mission in Afghanistan.
  • While Mr. Trump owned the Indo-Pacific policy later, the policy owes its origins to the Obama-Biden administration.
    • It first focused on “Asia-Pacific” in order to build a coalition to counter Chinese inroads in the region.
    • During his visit to New Delhi in 2015, Mr. Obama signed the first India-U.S. vision statement on the subject.
  • It is also likely that Mr. Biden will strengthen military cooperation and push the sale of U.S. military hardware while also building on the military foundational agreements with India.
  • While Mr. Biden cannot undo many of the measures put into motion by the Trump administration (with respect to trade), he could restore India’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) status for exporters.
  • If he chooses to be more flexible, the U.S could wrap up a mini-trade deal that the U.S. Trade Representative and Indian Commerce Minister have been working on.
  • With respect to visas, Mr. Biden gave Indian-Americans some assurances at a campaign speech.
    • He already has an in-house understanding of the value of Indian immigrants to the U.S., and the importance of India’s outsourcing industry to the U.S.

What are the Friction Areas?

  • In a speech in 2013 during a visit to Mumbai, Mr. Biden had said: “We admire the way you’ve melded ethnicities, faiths and tongues into a single, proud nation; the way entrepreneurship seems almost hard-wired into Indian society, from rickshaw-wallas to web programmers; and maybe most of all, we admire your democracy and the message that your democracy sends to people everywhere in the world.”
  • Where there is likely to be some friction, especially given India’s pending review by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, is where the Democratic Party leadership, have been particularly vocal, i.e, the issues relating to:
    • Jammu-Kashmir
    • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act
    • Communal and caste-based violence
    • Actions against non-governmental organisations and media freedoms.
  • These are areas Mr. Trump ignored for most part but are areas where Mr. Biden once said the U.S. admired India the most.

International outlook:

  • Biden’s foreign policy will be watched for how many of Mr. Trump’s decisions would be reversed, including the pull-out from the multilateral world order such as:
    • The World Health Organisation, UNESCO, Human Rights Council.
    • Agreements such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Accord.
    • Traditional trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific alliances.
  • He will also be watched for what concrete measures he takes in order to strengthen the rules-based international order to ensure the countries that go against it the most, including China, Russia, and even the United States are held accountable.

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