India and Biden: On post-Trump ties

While U.S. Democratic Party contender and former Vice-President Joseph Biden still needs to tie up some loose ends for an official seal to his victory, it is clear that New Delhi is now preparing to work with a new U.S. administration. The win is a mixed bag for the government. On the one hand, Mr. Narendra Modi invested considerably in the Trump administration, which included the Houston and Ahmedabad rallies with Mr. Trump, that indicated a virtual endorsement for his re-election. The External Affairs Minister’s snub to the Democrat-led House Foreign Affairs Committee and the invitation to senior Trump officials, for “2+2” talks just before the U.S. elections, also played into the impression of New Delhi expecting a Trump win. On the other hand, Mr. Biden, a long-time supporter of the U.S.-India relationship, brings to his presidency both the comfort of his understanding of foreign policy and the promise of future strategic ties. Foreign policy itself may not be his immediate priority, given the U.S.’s battle with the coronavirus pandemic, and the President-elect’s goal, which he articulated on Sunday, to “heal” rifts in its polity and “restore the soul of America”. However, it is clear that he will make moves to reverse some of the Trump-era policies.

For India, these could include the U.S.’s return to the Paris climate accord, which would help with its energy transformation, and a return to Iran nuclear negotiations, which will facilitate its regional connectivity ambitions. He is unlikely to reverse the Afghan pullout and instead might make it a more measured exit. On China, he is likely to adopt a less confrontational attitude while maintaining a pushback. Where he will no doubt press a hard nerve is on the issues of human rights, Jammu and Kashmir, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, given a policy paper his campaign released in June 2020 that quoted him as being “disappointed”. But these are more likely to be areas of engagement, and New Delhi should be prepared to hold its own in tough conversations on these sensitive issues. Mr. Biden’s presidency promises a change in leadership style, with broader powers to advisers and process-driven decisions. His belief in building up U.S. traditional trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific alliances might be at odds with America’s more transactional trends. No sudden moves such as Mr. Trump’s withdrawal of India’s GSP export status may be expected, and policy consistency is likely to be preferred to a more personalised summit style. Above all, as New Delhi prepares to adjust its responses to the new dispensation, it would welcome Mr. Biden’s stated intention to re-energise the multilateral global order, and to restore the U.S.’s position in “leading not by the example of [its] power, but by the power of example”.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2021 5:50:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/india-and-biden-the-hindu-editorial-on-india-us-ties-after-donald-trump/article33053717.ece

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