The United States and India began coming closer under President Clinton. This closeness accelerated under President Bush, continued under President Obama, augmented under President Trump and most likely will shape to new heights under President Biden.
It is widely believed that India enjoys good support of Republicans and Trump took the relationship to new heights. But India has enjoyed a good working relationship with Democrats too. We should not forget that the journey of this ever-growing friendship started with a Democrat president.
Joe Biden has a committed political life of five decades. In this long political journey, he has experienced many ups and downs. His political maturity and experience are his biggest asset. He may not be as dramatic and over-the-top as Donald Trump. But he is definitely not a maverick like Trump. He is a seasoned politician who understands geopolitics well and knows what is best for his nation, and survival of democracy.
Idea of Democracy
Biden in the last 50 years has worked hard to strengthen the roots of democracy in the US and will never want any other force to hijack the essence of democracy. He will work hard to nurture the ecosystem and strengthen it. A strong believer of a vibrant democracy, Biden will support democracy over any other form of governance and the natural allies in his journey to strengthen the institution called democracy is India.
Why am I talking of strengthening the idea of democracy? What is the purpose of exploring it now? When we are talking of Biden and his role in strengthening ties with India, the answer is not easy and only time will unfold it. As of now, it is important to understand that Biden needs the support of India in strengthening the idea of democracy.
Biden has always been a strong supporter of the India-US partnership since his days in Senate and later as Vice-President. It is important to remember that as a senator, and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whenever the opportunity arose, he extended his support to India. Moreover, in the run-up to the elections, in his campaign documents, Biden reiterated his vision for the US-India partnership. He spoke of the “special bond” between India and the US which has deepened over the years.
This is why Biden cannot afford to go against India. I don’t agree with the narrative set by a few right-wing activists that Biden is not good for India. He will prove to be a good associate to India.
We should not forget that India has enjoyed a good working relationship with Biden in the past. Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoyed an excellent rapport with the US administration under Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden during 2009-2016. In 2014, when Modi visited the US, Biden hosted lunch for him. In 2016, Biden chaired a Joint Session of Congress, which was addressed by Modi.
In 2016, the Obama-Biden administration named India as a “Major Defence Partner”. The status of Major Defence Partner allowed India to be treated on a par with other close partners of the US in terms of access to advance and sensitive military technologies. The Obama-Biden administration also supported India’s claim to permanent membership of the UNSC and call for co-operation to fight terrorism. Biden has been a great advocate of the US-India partnership and would likely take the relationship to the next level.
In the last four years, domineering nationalist President Trump and astute global-politician Modi worked together to bring New Delhi and Washington closer. In all likelihood, the importance of India for the US would continue under President Biden, as the Biden administration has adopted from Trump the premise of an Indo-Pacific region with India at its core.
The US cannot afford to alter its policy towards New Delhi. It needs India for various reasons, the most important of which is balancing Chinese power in Asia. It also needs India to exploit the progressive market that India offers, support in the form of military and trade partner, and the brainpower that we export. These are just some of the many other reasons that will push the US closer to India.
Some still believe that Biden may revive the old US-Pakistan ties to hammer India on Kashmir. Biden has bigger challenges and would not care about Kashmir. Kashmir was a good campaign subject to have in the campaign book. They need to understand that Kashmir is a closed chapter in the ever-changing geopolitics.
A mature student of geopolitics will not revisit a dead issue, rather would try to resolve the new challenges. They need to understand that as a large democratic Asian nation, India fits the bill to counter an authoritarian China. The largest problem that the US is facing today is ever growing, dominant and authoritarian China.
In the light of growing China, the India-US defence and counter-terror cooperation will not only remain intact but in all probability will develop further in the face of China flexing its muscles across Asia. The US, under the Biden administration, is actively working on taking the Quad alliance to the next level. One of the major beneficiaries of the Quad strategic alliance will be India.
India-US relations have been on a solid upward trajectory for the last two decades. There is every reason to believe this trend will continue during the Biden years. President Biden is ready to don the image of a true global leader, champion of democracy and advocate of human rights. He will prove good for India.
(The author is a New Media expert based in Bengaluru)
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