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

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".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

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.

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

A Marxian trend that queries undemocratic customs and traditions of capitalism

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  A very well-meaning comrade called me a pluriversal Marxist with a wild smile full of English irony, while chairing my book release function in the Marx Memorial Library, London. I dedicate this piece to her… There is no other philosopher who is more abused and misunderstood like Marx. There is no other philosophy like Marxism which is more demonised on a regular basis. The mindless vilification campaign against Marx and Marxism continues without any form of reason. The propaganda and portrayal of Marxism as a devilish doctrine signify its importance as a philosophy of human emancipation from the very forces who demonise it. Marxism is a philosophy of praxis which helps us to understand the centrality of creative power of labour in producing socially meaningful value. It helps us to analyse the laws governing production, distribution, consumption, exchange, market, profit, pricing and private property in the development of class-based society. As a humanist p