There is a sense of optimism in India over the election of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States with top politicians and bureaucrats confident that New Delhi’s relationship with Washington will become more transparent and solid under his administration.
One key factor why the Indians were keenly awaiting the outcome in the election in the US was the fact that Biden, who was the Vice-President in the Barack Obama administration, chose Kamala Harris, an Indian-origin American woman, as his running mate for the Vice Presidency.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to congratulate the 77-year-old Biden soon after he was declared the winner in the keenly-contested election against Donald Trump. ”Congratulations @JoeBiden on your spectacular victory! As the VP, your contribution to strengthening Indo-US relations was critical and invaluable. I look forward to working closely together once again to take India-US relations to greater heights,” he tweeted.
In another tweet, Modi congratulated Harris too, saying, ”Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans. I am confident that the vibrant India-US ties will get even stronger with your support and leadership.”
New Delhi feels that a strong relationship with India enjoys bipartisan support in the US and the new administration will relentlessly work for strengthening Indo-US ties, given the growing threat of China. Biden himself advocated stronger ties with India during his election campaign. He indeed played a key role in giving a new direction to Indo-US ties under the Obama administration.
Since the outgoing Trump administration has been extremely vocal in supporting India over the border stand-off with China, New Delhi hopes the Biden administration too will continue with an aggressive approach against Beijing. Biden, however, is yet to clarify his stand on the India-China border row. At the same time, there are many in New Delhi who believe that it will be very tough for Biden to decouple economic and strategic issues vis a vis China because of the massive bilateral trade.
Biden, a former diplomat, has had a cordial relationship with Pakistan and that’s why Islamabad was rooting for him. In 2008, Pakistan had conferred Biden with the second highest civilian honour, ‘Hilal-e-Pakistan’. Biden and Senator Richard Lugar were behind the proposal to give a massive non-military aid package to Pakistan.
But things have changed in the last 12 years and successive US administrations have seen and experienced how Pakistan has promoted terrorism in different countries, especially against India and Afghanistan. Biden is expected to reach out to India on the issue of terrorism while working for a close partnership with new Delhi in the strategic and defence field.
On the controversial H-1 B visa issue, Biden has repeatedly maintained during his election campaign that his administration will reform the visa system by eliminating the restrictions on employment-based green cards for Indians. Economic ties between the two nations have witnessed an unparalleled growth and the trend is likely to continue under the new regime in Washington.
Biden had strongly supported the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, leading the charge and working with both Democrats and Republicans, to secure its approval in the US Congress in 2008.
It was during his Vice-Presidency in the Obama administration that the US fulfilled one of New Delhi’s key expectations and officially declared its support for India’s membership in a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council.
However, his attitude on human rights has led to some unease in New Delhi which received backing to the hilt from the Trump administration on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Biden had expressed his disapproval of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) while Harris, a fierce advocate of human rights, made some stinging remarks against India on the abrogation of Article 370. India will have to do some tight rope walk on these thorny issues.
Trump, of course, proved to be a strong supporter of India on the international arena. His personal equation with Modi added a new dimension to bilateral ties between their two nations. He was confident of winning a second term but his mishandling of Covid-19, which made the US the country worst-affected by the virus, has indeed led to his downfall.