By Nitya Chakraborty
With less than two weeks to go for the Presidential elections in USA scheduled on November 3, talks have started about what is going to be the impact of the coming to the White House of Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice-President on the India-U.S relations. All indications suggest that unless, there is a major change in the opinion of the voters in the crucial swing states in the last minute before November 3, the Democratic candidate will have a clean sweep of the electoral college by getting much more than the required majority of 270 votes.
The India-US relations both political and economic are now at a peak level under the Trump Presidency and Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India. In no other time, the Indian Government identified so much with the electoral ambitions of a leading political party of USA, especially with its President. Trump has publicised the support of Modi in the election campaign among the Indian American voters who total 1.8 million and are expected to play a crucial role in making difference in the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Last year, at the Houston meeting of the NRIs, Modi supporters gave the slogan Aaap Ki Bar Trump Sarkar in the presence of both Modi and Trump giving the signal that the Indian PM is fully supportive of the second term for the Republican President. This is a case of putting all eggs in one basket- this time in the basket of Trump and such things had never happened in the history of Indian foreign policy when the country’s PM openly supported a candidate of a particular party of USA before the Presidential elections.
Democratic Party leaders are naturally jittery with the Indian Prime Minister but that will not matter if Trump wins for the second time. But if Biden wins, which is likely, some change is attitude will follow once the new president takes over on January 20, 2021.Biden is a centrist fellow in the Democratic Party and he is a close follower of former President Obama. On his own, he will be taking moderate positions on some of the issues relating to India and will certainly not be vindictive towards PM Modi, but he will be under tremendous pressure from the Left within the Democratic Party to take strong positions on human rights issues as also treatment of minorities.
The central policy making leadership of the Democratic Party now consists of supporters of Bernie Sandrers and they will have a role in deciding on issues concerning India. Sanders is highly critical of Narendra Modi and he considers him among the authoritarian rulers along with the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and others. The issues relating to human rights violations will be under scanner by the Democratic leadership.
The bill introduced by the Democrats last month gives some indication of the contours of the US policy towards both China and India. Though in US system, the President has enough powers of his own and he may not necessarily always go by the Party programmes, this outline gives enough indications about the changes which will be taking place in the U.S. policy under Biden compared to Trump era.
First and foremost, the Democrats policy paper mentions of Chinese coercion in Europe but does not mention Chinese incursions or aggression against India. The document ignores QUAD initiative which India is publicising. In sum, Biden presidency will look at China from their business collaboration perspective and there is little place of India there. India has to give a total relook at its China policy once Biden era starts.
The Democrats are giving big emphasis on human rights and it has been mentioned that US cooperation and largesses are linked with the good report on the status of minorities in the recipient country. India will be questioned by the Democrats more fiercely if they come to power on the rights issue in Kashmir and the unfair treatment to the minorities in India. Already adverse reports are lying with the Congress panels and the Democratic members will make use of those to corner India. Most of the upcoming Democratic leaders of Indian origin are close to Sanders and that will have an impact in their views of the Modi government.
The Governments come and go but the foreign office remains permanent and it is the face of all diplomatic activities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his rabid supporters of Republican Hindu coalition in America, have made matters messy and one sided, but the foreign service officers in USA who are very competent, have to take the responsibility of removing the misapprehensions of the Democrats
.It is now up to South Block to give a new direction to their staff in Washington and New York once the Biden Presidency starts. Their task is formidable but not impossible. The damage Modi and the BJP have done to India’s image, has to be repaired and that task only the seasoned diplomats can do. (IPA Service)