India might be US’ nice accomplice in combating COVID-19 pandemic: Consultants

New York, November 5

India can be a “great partner” for the US in combatting the coronavirus pandemic and rebuilding the economy, and the two countries’ relationship is about how they can influence regional and global challenges, leading Indian-American experts have said.

Speaking during a virtual post-election political analysis hosted by leading nonprofit Indian diaspora organisation ‘Indiaspora’, former Assistant Secretary of State, South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal said that in the eventuality that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden becomes the President, he will bring to the relationship a “global scope and a global impact”.

“The prime minister of India is looking for a United States that is going to be a leader on the global stage and a partner for India at a very important time,” she said.

“A US-India partnership is not just about the United States and India but it’s about how the two, working together, can actually influence regional and global issues and challenges. I think you’ll see that in a much crisper way in a Biden administration,” she said.

Biswal emphasised that as the vote tallies across the US come in, “it underscores to me that we are living in a divided country and we’re going to need to figure out how we find some common ground, how we build some bridges and how do we heal some of the wounds that are festering beneath the surface”.    

She added that going forward, there will be need for platforms like Indiaspora that bring voices together within South Asian diaspora community.

“And I think that we’re going to need to be doing that across the country and our community can be part of that healing and that national conversation as well,” she said.

Responding to a question on what Modi’s relationship would be with Biden, if the Democratic presidential candidate becomes the President, Biswal said it will not be a new relationship.

Modi has met Biden when he was the vice president on numerous occasions, including on his first visit to the US as the prime minister when the Democratic presidential candidate had hosted a formal ceremonial luncheon in honour of Modi, she said.

“So the two of them have a relationship already,” she said.

Former US ambassador to India Rich Verma said Biden had been working on the India-US relationship for decades and is familiar with it.

“But there’s a lot of things we can do right out of the box. The first obvious one is on global health cooperation, pandemic response, vaccine development and deployment. If that is issue number one, getting people safe but getting our economy going, India can be a great partner in that,” Verma said.

On the trade front, he pointed out that the two countries can do a lot.

“There was a kind of mini-deal sitting for a while. We ought to just finish that and get that done. On the defense front, I think we can go a lot farther,” he said.

He, however, pointed out that there was a need for “some repair work with how stable and trusted we are in the Indo-Pacific”.

This would mean rebuilding some of the US alliances and being a more steady partner, he said.

Verma underscored that how America treats its diaspora communities, particularly South Asians and Indian-Americans, also makes a big difference to the bilateral relationship.

“I’ve spoken out a lot over the last few years about how minority communities get treated here. People think those are domestic issues, but frankly, those are big bilateral issues and they impact the quality of relationships between countries. So we’ve got to get that on track, treat people with respect, make them feel welcome and included. That would be the best thing we can do for US-India relations,” he said.

Verma said that in the last three or four years of the Obama administration, the bilateral relations were on a high point. — PTI

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