For India, steady Joe Biden may be better than heady Donald Trump
Economic ties may strengthen further, in the absence of overtly personal vested interest and a long-term vision replacing a short-term, mercantile approach
India’s Left hated former US president Donald Trump for his tirades against Islamist terror, corruption and sense of entitlement of the liberal elite and hypocrisy of the mainstream media. India’s Right loved him for the same reasons.
Whether you are Left, Right or the self-proclaimed Centre, the ideological position of the President of the United States should not bother you too much. What should bother you is what the American administration under the new man in charge, Joe Biden, does.
Because it is not that Trump was India’s abiding friend. He whimsically called India all sorts of names, threatened tax punches, made unsolicited offers to meditate in bilateral India-Pakistan matters, and reigned in neither the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (which has shown deep bias against Hindus) nor the evangelists on a conversion mission in India.
Trump did not flinch in reducing the US’s engagement with its traditional allies to a purely transactional level.
The Biden administration is likely to be a lot more predictable and trustworthy. While it may make noises on the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens, Kashmir and Muslim issues to play to its Far Left and Antifa galleries, it won’t risk souring relations with its biggest and most powerful ally against China by pushing the envelope too far.
Economic ties may strengthen further, in the absence of overtly personal vested interest and a long-term vision replacing a short-term, mercantile approach. Biden promises to be more liberal with visas and outsourced work; decisions Indian companies would welcome.
But what matters most to India at this moment is the Biden administration’s stance on China. Trump was outright hostile towards the dragon. But instead of going after China in a more calm, structured way, he chose the only option he usually gave himself: Acting like a cowboy.
Biden has made early noises that should assure India that he is not going to drop the leverage with China and run into its arms. Both Biden and his secretary of state nominee Anthony Blinken have said that they were keenly aware of the China threat.
Counterintelligence officials have already warned Team Biden about the extent of the Chinese threat.
Both Bliken and defence secretary nominee Lloyd Austin are votaries for stronger US-India ties. Biden has been one of the earliest architects of the partnership, ever since his time as vice-president under Barack Obama.
Austin recently termed Pakistan’s actions on Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed “incomplete”.
From a strategic point of view, India may be in a better place with Biden’s administration than Trump’s. At least the speed-breakers will be clearly marked.
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