The confirmation that Joe Biden will be the next US President will reshape the country’s relationship with countries across the world. The Democrat has vowed to bring together representatives of democracies around the world to “confront the challenge of nations that are backsliding”.
Donald Trump during his tenure built a close friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two countries have also drawn closer military wise with the rise of China. So, for Delhi, stakes are high with the Biden administration.
Much before Biden became a Vice President in Barack Obama’s administration, he had advocated strong ties with India. He also played an important role in deepening strategic engagement with India.
In fact, in 2006, he had said: “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States.”
It was Biden who led the charge and worked with both Democrats and Republicans to approve the Indo-US nuclear deal.
During his tenure as the Vice President, US officially declared its support for India’s membership in a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council. The Obama-Biden administration had also named India a “Major Defense Partner” – a status approved by the US Congress – which made it easier to share advanced and critical technology to India to strengthen defence ties.
During the end of Obama’s tenure, the two countries signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, the first of the three “foundational pacts” for deeper military cooperation. The agreement allows the militaries of the two countries to replenish from each other’s bases and access supplies, spare parts and services from each other’s land facilities, air bases and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
The Trump administration, later on signed the remaining foundational pacts – COMCASA and BECA.
Obama-Biden also strengthened the co-operation with Delhi to fight terrorism in their countries and across the region. India is hoping Biden will carry forward the US administration’s approach towards India-Pakistan when it comes to cross-border terrorism.
Over the last few years, there is a consensus between Democrats and Republicans on China as a strategic rival and a threat. Trump has been vocal in attacking China and supporting India on the bitter border standoff with China. Though the Modi administration will be expecting a similar stand from the Biden administration also, one will have to wait and watch if the leader follows the same path.
On the issue of immigration and visas to Indians, the Biden administration is expected to be more liberal. He is expected to go soft on Indians to go to study in the US, work and live there and aspire for a better life. The President-elect will work towards providing a roadmap to American citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, including over 5,00,000 from India.
However, a major concern for India will be the human rights issue. Biden’s campaign policy paper had said he had been “disappointed by the measures that the Government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act into law”.
It added: “As the world’s oldest and largest democracies, the United States and India are bound together by our shared democratic values: fair and free elections, equality under the law, and the freedom of expression and religion. These core principles have endured throughout each of our nations’ histories and will continue to be the source of our strength in the future.”
However, one thing that could be a clear indication of how the India-US tie fares under Biden is the fact over the last 20 years, every American President — Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — has agreed to a stronger relationship with India. All of them have worked hard and made the ties with India better than what they inherited from their predecessor. So, we can expect Biden to carry forward the tradition but with his own imprint on it.