When Joe Biden takes over the presidency of the United States after January, India will have to instantly adjust its foreign policy orientation. Human rights are one of the areas where it will be defensive, then there is climate change where India is more comfortable, and there is a general belief that the Democrats will maintain steadiness in Trump’s plans, in the case of securities.
There’s a possibility of surprises from new faces. The President-elect Joe Biden has started nominations for new cabinet members and the White House team. The congressional approval is likely to come soon. The positions that matter to India are Secretary of the state, Secretary of Defense, National Intelligence Director of CIA, head of Homeland Security, and the Head of Treasury.
Who is nominated for Biden’s team?
From India’s point of view, the most important part is the position of US Secretary of State. Being part of the Obama Administration and someone familiar with India, Antony Blinken has been nominated for the post. As far as we knew Antony Blinken, is a diplomat and a genuine internationalist, unlike Mike Pompeo, who was a very domestic politician. Blinken knows that India is a strong ally for the US and him being tough on China is also expected.
Blinken is however unlikely to be silent on India’s internal changes such as the new citizenship law and the situation in J&K. There are other nominations along with Antony Blinken which includes, Jake Sullivan, as the new National Security Advisor, who was also the former chief of staff for Hilary Clinton while she was the secretary of the state in the Obama administration. He is also a former deal negotiator for Iran and played a key role in the Gaza peace deal in 2012.
As Biden’s Ambassador for Climate Change, John Kerry has been nominated, and it is his job to put the Paris Accord on Track. General Lloyd Austin III, will be the US’ new Secretary of Defense, and at least that is someone we know about. Shekar Gupta said: “Austin does not have a lot of familiarity with the Indo-pacific or China, which could be a good or bad thing.”
Janet Yellen was a scholar and a labor wage economist, and she is the new Secretary of the Treasury. According to Shekar Gupta, Janet Yellen will bring balance between the Left, the Right, and the Center, because the markets were happy learning of her appointment.
Neera Tanden got nominated as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, which makes her the senior-most official of Indian origin in Joe Biden Administration after Kamala Harris, who is the Vice President-elect. Tanden is likely to go through a hard time passing the congressional approval because there is dislike towards her from the republicans.
India ranks low for Global Human Rights Priorities in Biden’s List:
India will be very low on the US’ upcoming administration’s list. In view of most experts unlike Shekar Gupta, KP Nayar who is a Strategic Analyst says: “Of course the US cannot be seen as doing nothing about charges that rights and freedoms are at risk under a ‘Hindu Nationalist’ government, in J&K after the abrogation of Article 370 and nationwide after the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act.” Responses from Washington to such charges can be predictable, to satisfy the requirement to be politically correct, but it also inconsequential. On how liberties in India have been compressed upon and also highlighting the pressure on freedom of the press, The CRS (Congressional Research Service), might issue a demanding indictment.
“The reality is that more often than not, the Congressional Research Service reports are not read even by US Legislators. As for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a US government created by an Act of Congress, it is not taken seriously by anyone who matters in Washington. But administrations often use the body to appease religious lobbies complaining of persecutions by foreign governments. In India’s case, any damage to Indo-US relations on the human rights issue will be more of perception than reality,” stated KP Nayar.
The Scenario is different on Climate Change, which is India’s real test
In addition to the US, India has to deal with China. C Raja Mohan (the editor on international affairs for the Indian Express) writes, “China’s vigorous pursuit of “ecological civilization” under President Xi Jinping and President-elect Joe Biden and his cabinet’s promise to put climate issues at the heart of US domestic and foreign policies are set to transform the terms of the global discourse on environment. At least some goalposts of the climate debate that we have known are likely to move and quite soon.”
Delhi’s climatic conditions is better than it was earlier, where India was well known for its climate issues. Right now Delhi is no longer defensive on climate change and actively engaging in shaping the international debate.
The Challenges of Security:
There is the security issue where Joe Biden’s cabinet will be keenly watching upon. The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, and the Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd Austin. There were two significant developments this year, to understand the security environment around India. Chancellor, Jammu Central University & former High Commissioner to Pakistan, G Parthasarathy writes reflecting on the changes in India’s foreign and national security policies: “The first was India’s active participation in activities of the ‘Quad,’ a significantly security-oriented grouping.
This was obviously, in response to the threats China poses on its borders with India, and indeed, across the Indian and Pacific oceans… Secondly, India, responded aggressively, in the Panging Lake region of Ladakh, deploying its forces on strategic heights, which were hitherto unoccupied.”
India signed a significant military agreement with the US, amidst the continuous growing tension on India’s borders, for the sharing of ‘sensitive satellite data,” as both the sides held a top-level security dialogue aimed at China’s growing power in the region. In this case, India will have “real-time access” to intelligence information on developments with China across its borders.