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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Trump vs Biden White House race: 5 points on how India can gain from US poll

The great big fight, which would decide who becomes the next US president, is on. It is the Republican candidate Donald Trump who never fails to amuse the world with his bold decisions, explicit remarks and controversies or the calm, suave and more politically mature Joe Biden?

There is no doubt that the US elections is important for India, not economically but also strategically. As per experts, the markets in India may witness volatile conditions ahead of the polls and also during when it takes place. Starting from the past couple of days till next week at least this volatility will continue. Conscious citizens of India know that there could be drastic changes in policy decisions based on who becomes the next US president.

The background

Based on the election outcome, India may get a strong and favorable foreign portfolio investment, on the negative side, India may lose its existing base and investors may start withdrawing their money from our country. But no matter whoever has the last laugh, the present or ongoing Donald Trump vs Joe Biden battle is also a win-win situation for India. Wondering how? Well, we shall discuss it in this article.

While the overwhelming majority in China believe that irrespective of who comes to power in the US, it is not good news for Beijing; with India, it’s the reverse. Most believe that no matter who wins the race to the White House, ties with India will remain a continuum, albeit with a few differences. India-US relations have evolved and only grown irrespective of which party is in office, Democrats or Republicans. It is the single-most-important relationship on the foreign policy front which an acute strategic angle to the ties that go beyond the usual ‘give and take’ relationship. However, Indian Americans who are on the opposite sides of the spectrum beg to differ.

A Democrat administration in the US is expected to be more reasoned, mature and act towards India as if it were a friend and not club it with China and other countries on issues of trade, climate change, oil and defence exports. The Trump administration’s growing hard-line on China has aligned well with India at a time of growing Chinese aggression at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Trump also did take a hard line on Pakistan, if only to avoid giving money to Islamabad. Yet in the bargain, he also ceded space to Islamabad in the Afghanistan peace talks.

Trump vs Biden: 5 points on how India can gain from US poll

1. H1B visa and global terrorism

Democratic supporter Ajay Bhutoria and Republican Puneet Ahluwalia have almost the same things to say on policy issues. “Trump has suspended the H1B visa program and extended the backlog of green card for Indians. Biden will revive the H1 quota according to industry needs. He is going to streamline the green card process. He will stand against Chinese aggression at the border, is against cross-border terrorism and supports India,” Ajay Bhutoria said in a report. Countering his claim, Puneet Ahluwalia said, “He will take on China and will see that he breaks the monopoly in the South China Sea… That is why Secretary Pompeo went all over the world to build partnerships. We will take on Russia and Iran and far more emphasis would be put on the Abraham Accord seeking peace in the Middle East.”

“We will see more trade deals with India. Both sides will come forward in working out the issues which prohibit the doing of business with India. A lot will have to do with ‘Ease of Doing Business’ with India so that more American companies can have stronger ties. The other issue is fighting terrorism, an issue of concern for everyone. It is important that we find the terrorists wherever they are and exterminate them,” he added. It is a fact that on the H1B visa front Trump administration was seen dragging its feet and the niggling issues on trade front have still not been ironed out.

2. Biden-Harris and India’s right-wing politics

Experts believe that while there are differences, any party that wins the elections would want strong ties with Delhi. The one concern for India on a Biden-Harris win is the position they have taken on rights issues, particularly Kamala Harris’ stand on how the Indian government handled the issue of Kashmir. “The US election is a win-win for India. It will produce a winner who supports India and US-India partnership. To be sure, there are some differences between Biden and Trump on India. Biden is more likely to be critical of India on rights issues,” said Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate at the Woodrow Wilson Center, in a report.

Richard Rossow, Wadhwani Chair at US-India Policy Studies said, “This election will certainly impact US-India ties. Some areas will be pretty stable no matter the outcome. Notably, defense relations. I believe a Biden administration will reaffirm cooperation in areas like climate change and be more supportive of skilled immigration, but also be tougher on India related to issues of religious tolerance.” India is a huge market and is an important ally of the US in the fight against a hegemonic China. If Washington has to move forward to secure the Indo-Pacific, New Delhi is key.

3. It’s less volatile for India if Biden wins

Finally, one had to see the style of functioning. While PM Narendra Modi is one of those rare leaders who manage to have a great rapport with Trump, the latter’s off-the-cuff remarks have landed the former in quite uncomfortable positions in the pasts, like the offer to mediate on Kashmir issue. A less volatile, predictable and conventional Joe Biden might be a welcome change but any interference in India’s internal matters could ruffle feathers. It is for the American leadership to be mindful of such sensitivities should they want to continue strengthening relations. The bottom line is no matter how things shake out with the election, India will find a US leader eager to work with it.

4. Iran nuclear pact and India’s stand

Apart from these issues, Biden as President could reverse Trump’s decisions on Iran and revive the Iran Nuclear Deal, which would allow India to continue working with Tehran, an important partner to counter Pakistan in Afghanistan. “Also, the sharp differences between the two men on foreign policy more broadly will have implications for India. Biden, for example, wants a more conciliatory policy toward Iran-and that would help an Indian government that values its economic ties to Tehran and doesn’t want to be encumbered with a tough US sanctions regime on Iran,” said Kugelman. No matter who wins an election in New Delhi or Washington, India-US ties only get stronger. That caveat aside, it is important to note the ups and downs in the relationship.

5. Better trade deal hopes for India

Over-personalised diplomacy has backfired for Modi with Nawaz Sharif (Pakistan) and Xi Jinping (China), and his stadium rallies with Trump will be an embarrassment should Biden win. Not that Modi’s personalised style was able to tame Trump, who frequently lashed out at India and mimicked Modi, insults we swallowed without a whimper. A Biden presidency won’t embarrass us with offers such as mediation on Kashmir. Just look at how Trump recently insulted India by saying it has ‘filthy air’ and Biden tweeted saying that’s not how you talk about friends.

It is time for India and the US to put their national interests above domestic politics at a time of great Chinese expansionism. India getting a good trade deal with the United States alone will be worth a lot more than the sort of civilian honours that countries like Russia helpfully give Modi before a general election.

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