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Joe Biden, Kamala Harris

IN the past few months India has debated who is better for India – Biden or President Trump? Now that Joe Biden presidency is certain how would a Biden administration treat India?  There is no need for these apprehensions as New Delhi would stretch its hand for a handshake for continuing smooth relationship and Washington will reciprocate.

 New Delhi has an advantage because there is bipartisan support for India and there is an India caucus among the lawmakers, which has Democrats and Republicans.  Also Biden is not new to India.  As Obama’s vice president, Biden had visited India in 2013 and is known as a keen supporter of India during the Indo –US nuclear deal as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee of the US Congress.  

Not many know that like his Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden also has India connetions.  When he visited India as Obama’s Vice president in 2013 he had revealed in Mumbai that his great great great great grandfather had married an Indian girl and there are five Bidens living in Mumbai even today. 

 It should be noted that a new pragmatic relationship between India and the US began from the time of Clinton’s presidency, which had been taken forward by his successors since 2000.  The relationship should be seen from the bilateral visits of Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump in the past two decades. Obama visited two times.  President George W Bush went out of the way to clinch the Indo US Nuclear deal in 2008, which was further strengthened by Obama. Even Trump realised the importance of India. 

Another important thing is that Biden, inhis policy platform called “Joe Biden’s Agenda for the Indian American Community” — pledged to “work with India to support a rules-based and stable Indo-Pacific region in which no country, including China, is able to threaten its neighbors with impunity.” This was the first time an American presidential candidate released a separate vision for Indian Americans. 

As Senator, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and as Vice President, Biden has supported India and a strong friendship between India and the United States.He asserted that he will “increase the number of visas offered for permanent, work-based immigration based on macroeconomic conditions and exempt from any cap recent graduates of Ph.D. programs in STEM fields “

At a personal level, the relations between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Obama or Trump have been quite good.  Trump openly acknowledged Modi as his friend, after the ‘Howdy Modi ‘ rallies in Houston in September 2019 and the’ Namaste India ‘rallies in Ahmedabad.  One can be sure that Modi will  soon build up a good relationship with Biden. 

 Not every Trump policy is likely to be overturned by Biden administration. However, Biden and Harris have been critical of India’s approach to Kashmir, Citizenship Amendment Act, the plight of migrant labour and the National Register for Citizens etc. However, they are also addressing their domestic constituency their domestic constituency and there are some Human Rights activists who demand action. Even President Obama during his visit to New Delhi had made some critical remarks on the Modi government on religious intolerance at a town hall like meeting. Both India and the US have past records of accepting criticism without affecting overall relations.

There are some sensitive trade related issues between India and the US. Tariffs have been imposed on steel and aluminum imports from India. The U.S. has removed GSP benefits from India and has imposed restrictions on H1-B visasDuring Trump’s visit this February there were expectation of a trade deal but it did not happen,

Kashmir is another sensitive issue. “Preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy. The Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir,” notes the Biden campaign site. 

 On Immigration and H1B visas, Biden has been sympathetic and will try to be more flexible than Trump.  He said, “Immigration is essential to which we are as a nation, our core values, and our aspirations for our future,” He has also promised to deepen ties on defense and trade, possibly without the tariffs Trump has imposed. He will restart cooperation on clean energy, which Trump dropped when he pulled out of the Paris climate agreement. Bipartisan view on containing China will also make India an important player. China is yet another important issue and Biden too is interested in India playing an important role. 

Biden is likely todeliver on his long-standing belief that India and the United States are natural partners, and a Biden Administration could place a high priority on continuing to strengthen the U.S.-India relation. In his vision for the future India –US relationship, Biden had Biden will deliver on his long-standing belief that India and the United States are natural partners, and a Biden Administration could place a high priority on continuing to strengthen the U.S.-India relation.In his vision for the future of U.S.-India relations: “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States,” Biden had announced. 

Given the present grim and complicated times, we can hope both democracies work together for mutual and wider good.

Kalyani Shankar is a Delhi- based political commentator and currently consulting editor of the web portal "The Print" as also a syndicated columnist. She is a senior journalist, political analyst and a keen observer of Indo-US relations.

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