INTERNATIONAL

Biden, Harris address Indian Americans

Reaching out:Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. last week.APCarolyn Kaster  

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said if elected, he will stand with India as it faced challenges in the region and also have “honest conversations” with the country.

Speaking at a virtual campaign event to commemorate the Independence Day, Mr. Biden said, as President, he would advocate “standing with India and confronting the threats it faces in its own region and along its borders; expanding greater two-way trade that opens markets and grows the middle class in both our countries; taking on big global challenges together like climate change and global health security and strengthening our democracies where diversity is our mutual strength. And where we have an honest conversation about all issues as close friends do”.

Members of the U.S. Congress, especially Democrats, have repeatedly raised the issue of restrictions in Kashmir since the dilution of Article 370 a little over a year ago, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) last year by Parliament.

Indian Americans mostly vote Democrat, as per the available data. Nevertheless, the Democrats are apparently not taking any chances. Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Tom Perez, speaking at a campaign event a few weeks ago, had urged Indian Americans to vote. Even small numbers are in a position to make a difference in battleground States (where there are 1.3 million Indian Americans, as per Democrat estimates).

Role in nuclear deal

At Saturday’s event, Mr. Biden highlighted his role in “leading the efforts to approve” the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Deal. Mr. Biden was presumably referring to being a ranking member (in 2005, when U.S. President George W. Bush announced the deal), and then the chair (2007-2009) of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee as the legislation was making its way through the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Biden offered his sympathies to Indians who had been the victims of hate crimes and those impacted by U.S. President Donald Trump’s temporary suspension of H-1B visas, which he called “sudden and harmful”. “While it sometimes may not feel like the America of your dreams, we will overcome and build back better than ever,” he said.

Part of the Biden campaign platform is to reform the temporary work visa programme so that wages are not undermined before expanding the number of high-skilled worker visas.

Mr. Biden’s recently selected running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, has also been a supporter of reform for legal migrants. In 2019, she sponsored a Bill that would increase the country-caps for green cards for countries like India and China that had backlogs.

Love of goodidlis

During her recorded message at Saturday’s event, she spoke of her mother taking her and her sister, Maya, to India as children.

“Because she wanted us to understand where she had come from and where we had ancestry. And of course, she always wanted to instil in us, a love of good idli ,” Ms. Harris joked.

Ms. Harris said she would take walks in Chennai with her grandfather P.V. Gopalan, a former civil servant, and he would tell her about the ‘heroes’ of freedom struggle and that it was “on us to pick up where they left off”. “Those lessons are a big reason why I am who I am today,” she said.

“The reason there is a kinship between everyone who is a product of the South Asian diaspora, no matter how diverse our backgrounds may be is because we also share a set of values. Values forged by overcoming colonial pasts, not only in one nation, but in two. Values like tolerance, pluralism and diversity.”

“Biden believes there can be no tolerance for terrorism in South Asia — cross-border or otherwise. A Biden Administration will also work with India to support a rules-based and stable Indo-Pacific region in which no country, including China, is able to threaten its neighbors with impunity,” an email sent at the weekend by the campaign said.

A Biden administration would place a high priority on continuing to strengthen the India-U.S. relationship, the campaign said.