The Biden Era: A Turnaround for India?

Photo by Manny Becerra on Unsplash

Introduction

India and US diplomatic relations have been a talking point in recent times when it comes to the ethos of democracy.  In the month of September in 2019 a stand-up comedian – Hasan Minaj was denied entry in the mighty Howdy Modi Event in Texas, although he was also honoured by his name as a successful immigrant from India on the screen standing tall and wide behind PM Modi. This is a good example to start with how India and the USA share the warmth of criticism when it comes to politically inspired stand up comedians and how authorities banned individuals from entering an event which was meant for Indian – Americans. This will surely ring some bells on the individual rights and how hand in hand Indian Politics and American Politics have gone through since time and again under the Democratic ties and alliances.

Paris Climate Change Agreement – A Smooth Hand in Hand Relationship.

Under the Biden administration, bilateral relations with India will go back to being institutionally-centred and subject-matter expert-driven than more of Individual based opinions and core base of everything affecting electoral votes. A prime example is the Paris Climate Change Agreement which will be absolutely in benefit of India. The warmth of such ideology and value for such pacts are the same when it comes to Traditional India – US relations. Taking a step forward, the Biden Administration will be the first to have more than 24 Indian American Cabinet Ministers and Advisers, which effectively will be a good source of communication channels. This will also set up a tone for trade and defence alliances between two mighty democracies in the coming future.

The result might also take some shape if the Biden Administration could keep their vows for the Iran Nuclear Deal. That will make life easier for PM Modi to obtain oil at a much cheaper price. Although, with Paris Agreement in the picture, introducing Tesla’s under Make in India won’t be such a bad idea.

Indian migration to the US has always made headlines here. This is also a major factor when it comes to deepening the ties. With the Government of India planning some voting rights to the NRIs in the present situation, this could swing in more relief for the Modi Government. In fact in the ambitiously stated claims – Biden has said that he will turn the clock back and eliminate the anti-immigration proclamations and executive orders issued by Trump.

International Trade and Policy – China Challenge

Unlike Donald Trump who campaigned for an anti-globalization platform promising to put America first and get tough on trade partners like China, Joe Biden has proved to be more inclusive in nature when it comes to dealing with developing countries as allies and partners in trade. On the contrary he shares a stronger view on China when it comes to economic and military influence in Asia. During his Vice Presidency in the Obama administration he had formed a strong Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have positioned the U.S. as an alternative trade partner to China for many Asian countries. The US – China Trade war has also opened a possibility of a 3rd block for the balance of power; in this case, India is strategically and geographically placed. This sure will result in some ‘Acche Din’ when it comes to trade and manufacturing in India. A sure bet on India in the US perspective is going to gloom the economy if played right. Studying this scenario carefully, this can also push India to be more inclusive than strictly making strong statements like – ‘Bilateral Issues’ & ‘Internal Affairs’ when it comes to border issues with neighbours. A sense of diplomacy is the only way forward than mixing border issues with trade.

Defence Partner – A Pakistan Headache, Itching for China’s Economic Turnaround

According to Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at London-based King’s College, “defence has been a driver of ties in the past few years.”

On August 15, Anthony Blinken – Biden Administration’s Secretary of State, participated in a panel discussion on Indo-US ties, and flagged the issue of UN reforms. “In a Biden administration, we would be an advocate for India to play a leading role in international institutions and that includes helping India get a seat on a United Nations Security Council,” he said. India has always been a huge importer of defence equipments and shares a huge chunk when it comes to the US – which this year will cross the $20 Billion mark from a zero in 2008. Diplomatically and strategically speaking, it is going to increase in coming times, with joint operations and defence correlation increasing in the South-China Sea between the US and India.

In recent times, Pakistan has been on the bottom helm of defence deals with the US. In 2019 US refunded $10.8 million to Pakistan as there was no purchase order. In 2020 with just about $146 Million purchases in comparison to $20 Billion for India, we are far ahead in keeping our LOCs in Order. This will certainly provoke China in increasing their maritime activity in the Indian Territory. A strong economically developed country will always be a threat and thus, India – US ties in this region are bound to take place in times of calamities.

The United States and India share a similar vision of the Indo-Pacific based on a shared commitment to a rules-based order that respects the sovereignty of all countries and ensures freedom of navigation and overflight. This alignment between the US and India exists not only in concept for the US, but in our strategy. The 2018 National Defence Strategy identified the “re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition” as the central challenge to prosperity and security, and called for expanding alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region. The same year, PM Modi announced India’s Act East Policy, which calls for greater Indian involvement in promoting “SAGAR” — the Security and Growth of All in the Region.

In poetic fashion, Sagar is the Hindi word for ocean — a fitting allusion to India’s status as the largest economy and military in the Indian Ocean region.

This will invite Washington to go all guns blazing on Beijing, indirectly provoking Pakistan to be an active part of this politics. The CPEC project has already made Pakistan an Economic Colony of China arguably and hypothetically. Further provocations may lead to fatal consequences. Thinking from the US perspective it’s a big business opportunity for the Defence Industry, which is to go about $16 Trillion in coming times till 2025. The current Defence Industry in the US is about $50.8 Billion, coming down from $55.7 Billion in 2019.

Some Downside of going ahead with Biden Administration

The downside for India from a Biden administration lies in the liberal ideology of Democrats. The Left faction in Biden’s party has pushed him to believe that India under PM Modi is worryingly illiberal and intolerant towards religious minorities. Trump was happy to take at face value as his twitter campaign would please it eventually. In addition, Modi’s assurance that “religion is freedom”, has come at a cost of a certain divide in the country. Biden might bring up the alleged decline in religious freedom in India, rankling Indian nationalists and conservatives which will benefit China to play its proxy diplomacy through Pakistan and its Communist Party. The fall of 2014 is the perfect example when the ‘Swing’ Story from Ahmedabad was just heating up on Prime Time Media Networks in India; a simultaneous Cross Border Violation from both Pakistan and China was duly noted by our Army.

Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris is of half Indian ancestry, but both of them have taken digs at issues sacred to the Modi Government such as the status of Kashmir and the controversial CAA. Even if a Biden administration doesn’t walk the talk by downgrading the strategic partnership over value differences, it will talk of some self goals which potentially will be part of “Un-Democratic Views in US Democracy” and effectively spread negative ‘stereotypes’ about Modi’s India in the international arena, which will cost India at one point if not dealt with utmost respect and humanly – Specifically not in Termites Language.

Conclusion

Neither Trump nor Biden is a blessing for India. But we should be crystal clear about our top priorities and take away from the US-India strategic partnership, which is to keep China under check. Our approach should be to ensure that whether it is four or eight more years of Biden, China remains the foremost factor binding the US and India Relations Post Covid-19 and as per PM Modi’s Election Rally Statement – 21st Century is the Century of Asia. Frankly Speaking – We need to work on it if India has to be part of it.

If nothing, rest assured – there will be no more mocking of Bollywood Songs like ‘Malhari’ by Trump Jr. from The White House.

Akhil Mehta

Armed with a Masters in Book Publishing, Akhil Mehta is a passionate researcher and a pioneer in digital publishing. He is currently working for a reputed publishing house in Pune.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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