Watch | Campus protests in U.S. | Will it impact presidential elections?

In this episode of Worldview from the U.S., amid student protests over Israeli bombing on Gaza, we discuss if foreign policy is the key election issue in the world’s most keenly watched Presidential race.

May 03, 2024 09:41 pm | Updated 10:15 pm IST

First let’s tell you where the U.S. election campaign is-

We are about 2 months from the Republican National Convention- despite cases against him, Mr. Trump seems set to be the candidate

About 3 months from the Democratic Convention- where despite concerns about his age and health, Mr. Biden is the confirmed candidate

And about 6 months to go to voting day on November 5- which appears to be a rematch of the election in 2020

However, what is different at this point in the campaign is that Foreign policy issues are also dominating the discourse- 3 in particular

1. Israel’s war in Gaza is front and centre – with protests on campus against U.S. support to Israel and the government’s reaction to them becoming the major issue.

-The U.S.’s unconditional support to Israel is of course the bedrock of U.S. Foreign policy and unlikely to change.

- This includes military transfers during the conflict

- U.S. vetoes of any UNSC resolution criticising Israel

The difference between Trump and Biden on this is not much, as one of the protestors I spoke to said

2. Russia-Ukraine war is the next big issue, where there is some difference between the two candidates as President Biden has just pushed through a 95 Billion $ support package for Ukraine, where Trump has said on many occasions that US financial support would come with conditions and that he would end the war as soon as possible, and has in the past praised the Russian President.

3. Immigration is the third issue, which was also an issue in 2020- both are now quite tough and have put new restrictions on illegal immigrants, increased deportations and decreased visas. But Trump is likely to be more vocal, may bring back some version of immigrant ban, the muslim ban and the wall with Mexico which Biden defunded. And Mr. Biden even had a dig at India when it came to taking in immigrants

So in a nutshell, here’s how the situation in the U.S. affects India:

Government has often objected when western countries criticise crackdowns on protestors in India. So while the MEA took the chance to take a dig at the U.S. crackdown on its student protestors, it also made it clear that Indian students should not participate in the protest.

1. In every democracy, there has to be the right balance between freedom of expression, sense of responsibility and public safety and order. Democracies in particular should display this understanding in regard to other fellow democracies. After all, we are all judged by what we do at home and not what we say abroad. And as far as your question regarding Indian students is concerned, we are always in touch with Indian students. And as and when there are issues which have to be resolved, we’ll look into it.

More broadly, India’s position on Israel has been closer to the U.S. than in the past when it comes to the terror attacks on October 7, but India has criticised the Israel bombardment of Gaza, voted for a ceasefire and also spoken up for the need for a lasting 2-state resolution for Palestinians

2. On the Russia-Ukraine conflict, India has had a decidedly divergent position from the U.S.- while the Biden administration has accepted India’s continued ties with Russia, import of oil, it remains to be seen what a Trump administration would accept…remember in 2018, India accepted the Trump deadline to zero out on oil imports from Iran and Venezuela

3. On Immigration, India may face more pushback from the U.S.- Indians make up an estimated 725000 illegal immigrants in the U.S., the third largest group, and a number that has been increasing. If the U.S. starts deporting them, it would lead to further joblessness within the country.

WV Take:

The U.S.’s one-sided support for Israel during the bombardment of civilians, and the crackdown on students has taken away from its credibility in demanding for accountability for Russia, and for democratic freedoms in other countries. However, given that these policies are bipartisan and the outcome of the U.S. election is unlikely to depend on foreign policy- the results may depend more on the turnout of Biden and Trump voters later this year than on their positions per se.

Script and Presentation: Suhasini Haidar

Production: Gayatri Menon and Shibu Narayan

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