Skip to main content

Relations with India: What hope from Biden administration amidst 'major' challenges

By Dr Simi Mehta

Indo-US relations have played a major role in international politics for both the countries and even to the world. Historically, since the Nehru-Truman talk in 1949, there has been no looking back for both countries. Despite a few bumps on the road, both countries share common interests in fighting terrorism, enhancing human rights, increased trade networks among many others.
In 2020, the US politics witnessed a very different dynamic. First, the country successfully conducted an election during a pandemic and second heralded the possibility of electing a female vice-president for the very first time in the history of American politics and executive leadership.
To study how the new US administration under President-elect Joe Biden and discuss the impact of it on the Indo-US relations a panel discussion was conducted by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS), Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), India and the Rising Powers Initiative, Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the George Washington University, Washington DC, USA.
Prof Deepa M Ollapally, Research Professor of International Affairs and the Associate Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, spoke about the strategic relations between India and US and the possible changes and modifications that it can witness under President-elect Biden’s administration. She stressed upon the important point out here that regardless of the leadership in America, India would continue to be a significant strategic partner for the country.
Primarily because it shares common interests in the Chinese aggression on the Indian frontiers and Indo-Pacific. Biden administration would seek to have cordial relations with China as opposed to Trump, because none of the parties would want any form of confrontation. At present, it would be interesting to witness how both Prime Minister Modi and President–elect Biden form a network to combat the pandemic and how the politics over the vaccine would unfold.
The idea behind the strategic Indo-US partnership was pushed by the Obama-Biden administration very proactively. It was primarily to secure democracy and rule of law in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), as was firmed up in the Pacific region. In the Biden-Modi administration, they would have rather little worries carrying forward the already existing regulations and understanding.
Biden also inherits a large amount of agreements like the foundational defence arrangements like Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), that would be an added advantage in pushing for continued positivity in the bilateral relations between India and US.
Prof Ollapally pointed out the opportunities and challenges for the Biden administration which may or may not be beneficial to India. For example, if Biden re-enters the Iran nuclear deal it could be a major opportunity for him to reset the US understanding with other countries: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and Germany who are part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
It will be a matter of time to determine how these opportunities have had an impact on India. Major challenges that remain matters of concern include: domestic economic recovery and the post-pandemic nation building, Trump-era immigration policies etc.
She concluded her remarks by saying that it would also be interesting to see whether US and China would be signatories to the the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), despite being two large countries of the world.
According to Richard Rossow, Senior Adviser and Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in the pre-Covid period, India and US had a very successful and cordial relationship as compared to any other country when it came to trade. The figures showed a very high profit for both countries regardless of the claims made by both New Delhi and Washington.
Therefore, the numbers project a good and satisfactory approach towards the economic ties between the two countries. This is aided by the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a pro-investment leader all throughout his term. He has significantly cut down on FDIs and has constantly encouraged foreign companies to invest in India and look for opportunities here. This definitely has had an impact on the US-India relations.
In the prevailing Covid-era there has been a slight change in the dynamics of trade between the two countries. India’s rank has fallen from being the 9th largest trading partner of the US to rank 12. He pointed out that there was still time in the future to decide whether or not India could potentially be a top trading country, however, at present that dream is farfetched. It will only depend on how the foreign companies/investors do their business in India.
China is looking forward to expanding its global domination. This definitely poses a great threat to India in Asia and to the USA in the world. It is here that the countries need to adopt the steps that China has been undertaking to achieve its goal. The focus should not be on how much a country is importing or exporting, rather what one needs to constantly monitor is its manufacturing patterns and its modern techniques and resources.
These are some of the Chinese guidelines for 2025; therefore, in order to prevent Chinese domination, India and the USA need to adopt such policies. Data flow remains another key aspect of concern with China. But it has to be understood that in order to prevent domination, data flow needs to be open and more transparent between India and the USA. It is undoubtedly the most important aspect, and at the core of Indo-US relations.
Rossow concluded by saying that in the first half of the Biden administration there is an urgent need for India to roll back the stringent barriers, come closer in the trading sector and mend the existing gaps between India and the USA.
“India matters” has been a very prevalent phrase for the longest time. The country is a rising power in Asia. With its advancement in technology, knowledge and defence techniques, India is undoubtedly a very prominent and important voice in world politics and global affairs. Therefore, Prof KP Vijayalakshmi, Professor of US Studies at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University pointed out that regardless of the President in power in the US, India will remain an important strategic power. There have definitely been slight disagreements, however, in the last four leaderships, India has remained a rather important ally.
There are several factors that bring the US and India together. But according to Prof. Vijayalakshmi the most significant reason is the defence cooperation. Both India and US believe that there is an immediate need to reestablish and strengthen their defence ties on a much larger level. 
In the very recent Doklam standoff concerning India and China, it is believed that the US had a major role to play in bringing peace to the situation only because of the various defence agreements (like the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and BECA between US and India. 
Focus should not be on how much one is importing or exporting, rather on manufacturing patterns and its modern techniques and resources
It is agreements like these that provide India with real actionable intelligence. Thus, in order to enable any form of agreement there must be a dialogue between the two concerned parties that would help in the optimum utilization of the agreement in future. 
The continued talks and relations between the two countries is the sole reason that the Doklam issue was prevented from turning into a much more violent confrontation with China. Therefore, it is by no doubt that we can establish the fact that India is not just important to the US for resources but the US is important for India when it comes to defence cooperation and economic prosperity.
The US administration under President–elect Joe Biden strongly believes that India is a key figure in the Indo-Pacific belt and without India being a part of it, there is not much other countries could do in the region. Thus, a statement like this from the US government gives India a stronger role over the region.
India’s interests with Afghanistan will also prove to be a point of discussion between India and the US. Despite several contentions by the people on believing Taliban, the Indian convoy did end up meeting them at the Doha convention. This meeting with India and Afghanistan is important to the US primarily because the Biden administration believes in the systematic withdrawal of troops from the place but also, more importantly, a systematic end to the war as the ultimate goal.
Therefore, this matter could be one of the most important topics that India, the Afghan government and the US administration could collectively deliberate, talk and debate about and possibly reach to a peaceful consensus.
During the question and answer session, Prof Ollapally spoke about how China should not be seen as a ‘threat’ to the US and India relationship despite the open dislike by US President Trump. USA’s interests in India would only be successful if India’s economics is successful and flourishing.
At present, China has a lot of border issues, not just India but Japan, the South China Sea issue etc, therefore, she pointed that due to these growing concerns, this would be the ideal situation for both India and the US to come together as one strong bloc.

Adding on to this, Prof Vijayalakshmi iterated the fact that rather than just India and the US trying to be the pioneers against Chinese aggression, it would be ideal if organizations like the ASEAN is encouraged to participate in the dialogue processes. The main reason for including ASEAN would be to welcome and make them aware about how difficult it is to handle a country like China which constantly has border issues and yet has a strong trade relation.
In her closing remarks, Prof. Ollapally says that the new Biden administration has a lot of existing problems to deal with as soon it resumes power. The pandemic, the vaccine rollouts and the upliftment of the economy from the losses it incurred during and before the pandemic. Therefore, in the first two years of the administration, India should be assured that there will not be any stringent agreements or deals. However, after two years, the India government can expect a few changes and formulations.
As a disadvantage to the Indian government, it could be a trouble because Biden has always been a strong supporter of “democracy at home and abroad”. Therefore, India should gear itself to answer questions related to Kashmir, CAA and NRC.
Prof Vijayalakshmi pointed out that both the governments have a lot of common grounds that they could possibly talk and discuss about. In the agricultural sector, India could draw lessons from US domestic agricultural policies and focus on those areas that converge the interests of government and the farmers.
Overall the webinar brought to light the need to consistently engage in the issues of contention while keeping the common interests, rule of law, democracy and values of pluralism at the heart of bilateral ties between India and America. India should make all efforts to continue to intensify its warm relations with the Biden administration as it did during the Trump administration in the last four years. 
***
Acknowledgement: Annmary Thomas, research intern, IMPRI

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Cyrus Mistry, PM Modi’s brother: What do these accidents have in common? Merc!

By Rosamma Thomas*  In September 2022, in an accident at Palghar near Mumbai, Cyrus Mistry, former chairman of the Tata Group, died in a road accident . On December 28, 2022, a road accident in Mysore left one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brothers injured. What is common in these accidents? The car that crashed into the divider on the road, in both these cases, was manufactured by “prestigious” German manufacturer Mercedes Benz. One former dealer of Mercedes Benz cars in India has been raising issues of the threat to the lives of those riding these cars for many years now. Cama Motors, among the oldest dealers of foreign cars, having started business in pre-independence India, noted over 10 years ago that Mercedes Benz was indulging in corrupt practices . The cars are currently priced between Rs 41 lakh and Rs 2.92 crore in India; few people realize that the pride of owning a Merc comes at considerable risk to life. Cama Motors carefully documented several of the flaws on a websi

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen