Biden to revive stability in Indo-US ties

Sandeep Dikshit

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 8

The new Joe Biden administration is expected to restore the balance in India-US relationship that had got heavily skewed to the security side during the last four years of the Trump administration.

One such example took place during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tour to the region last month. In India, the focus was on the BECA military agreement just as it has been on another military pact CISMOA signed a week back.

But when Pompeo landed in Indonesia, he announced the restoration of its duty free exports to the US under the General System of Preferences (GSP).  

India had simultaneously lost the duty-free GSP access on Rs 40,000 crore of its exports to the US. There was no mention in the latest Indo-US 2+2 joint statement and the Trump administration avoided a mini trade deal. Instead, India stepped deeper into an energy relationship purchasing a record Rs 7 lakh crore from US oil behemoths last year at the cost of some of its long-standing quasi-allies.

The focus on Asia Pacific is likely to remain. Biden was a key participant in Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” which also had the same security related goals – retain US superiority in the maritime domain with India as a new ally. But there was a matching accent on economics. The architecture of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) — to create China-free supply chains—was beginning to take shape when the Trump administration junked it.

Biden’s plans to increase visas may not take shape immediately but will be a major improvement over the near-total clampdown by Trump. There is no doubt though that eventually Biden will ease norms for high-skilled visas, including H-1B, and Green Cards.

But with Kamala Harris as Vice President, Biden is expected to keep up the pressure on human rights, from CAA and NRC to Kashmir.

It remains to be seen if the presence of a vocal pro-Modi Indian diaspora in the US and a much closer energy and security relationship since the 90s will encourage Biden to keep private conversations with New Delhi on human rights and Islamophobia. Trump had adopted a similar approach following reports of forcible closure of churches in some parts of India during Modi’s first term as PM.

But the free pass during the Trump term is unlikely. On Kashmir, Biden promises to work against “restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy”, while Harris has said “there is a need to intervene if the situation demands”.

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