SOURCE: Statesman News Service

New Delhi and its amplifiers in media will tell you that US-India ties have reached a level of maturity wherein a change of administration in Washington will not impact fundamentals. It is true that there is bipartisan support for strengthening the US-India strategic, economic and civilisational relationship.

But with President-elect Joe Biden now on his way to the White House with Kamala Harris in tow as his V-P, the granular reality is likely to be a little different. India would do well to be prepared for it. Whatever President Donald Trump’s angularities, and despite the aesthetic discomfort many have had with his more obnoxious personality traits, he was, like Republican presidents before him post-Ronald Reagan, good for India.

Notwithstanding the transactional nature of his Administration’s dealings, he was resolute in staring down China, dehyphenating the India-Pakistan relationship and promoting an Indo-Pacific strategic architecture. All in the US’ interests, of course, but it gave India leverage in a multipolar world.

President-elect Biden, given what he owes the American left-liberal establishment for getting him elected with the highest ever popular vote to turf out a populist demagogue, will likely have different priorities. From the Indian perspective, on the credit side, will be the likely resurrection of the Iran nuclear deal which will help India in balancing its relationship between Teheran and Washington both of which are of vital strategic importance.

A fillip to economic ties with an easing of trade barriers is on the cards and the Indian IT industry is expected to benefit as strict job visa regulations are reviewed. Mr Biden’s foreign policy expertise acquired over four decades in public life and his calm demeanour ought to help the US-Russia relationship recover from a collegiate competitiveness between alpha males which is how it’s been over the past four years.

Again, good for New Delhi, as it is in the Indian national interest not to have Washington and Moscow expending their energy on showing each other down while China acquires more heft. The problem areas for India with Biden in charge are going to be the CAA, NRC, integration of the Kashmir Valley and India’s fight against terror – the Indian state’s unifying agenda on which a civic nationalism may be premised.

Sanctimonious and unsolicited advice bordering on interference is certainly on the anvil from our strategic ally on these issues. Naturally, these fault-lines will be sought to be exploited by India’s adversaries. Allegations around human rights as relating to groups rather than individuals ~ and concomitant notions of intolerance and dissent ~ too will be areas of disagreement given the Democrats are now the leading global practitioners of identity politics.

But our money is on hard-nosed policy establishments on both sides ensuring these do not have a material impact on India-US ties. What will, however, prove to be truly problematic for India, is if President-elect Biden decides to accommodate instead of contain China, engage rather than isolate Pakistan, and push the trope that contemporary global terrorism is not linked to religion.