What Biden's win means for India?

What Biden's win means for India?
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets the then US Vice President Joe Biden in Washington DC in a photo dates Oct 1, 2014. Photo: PIB via PTI

Washington: Joe Biden, 77, defeated incumbent President Donald Trump in the bitterly-fought presidential election that attracted a record number of Americans to cast their votes. By becoming the US president, Biden has an opportunity of fulfilling his 14-year-old dream to strengthen the India-US ties that he wants to achieve in 2020.

The Biden administration will place high priority on strengthening the Indo-US relationship by pushing India to became a permanent member of the UN Security Council, continuing co-operation on terrorism, climate change, health and trade, according to a policy paper released by the Biden campaign during the presidential election.

My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States. If that occurs, the world will be safer, Biden had told the now closed down India Abroad newspaper in an interview in December 2006.

While it would be tough for him to realise this in 2020, he can definitely achieve it during his presidency starting on January 20, 2021.

A policy paper released by the Biden Campaign during the closely-fought election gave an inkling of how he wants to accomplish it.

Topping the list is pushing India to became a permanent member of the UN Security Council, continued co-operation on terrorism, strengthening ties on issues like climate change and health working towards a multi-fold increase in bilateral trade.

Biden played a lead role, both as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as Vice President in the Barack Obama administration, in systematically deepening strategic engagement, people-to-people ties, and collaboration with India on global challenges, the policy paper said.

In 2006, Biden announced his vision for the future of US-India relations: 'My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States.' He has also worked to make that vision a reality, including leading the charge in Congress, working with Democrats and Republicans, to approve the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2008, it said.

According to the policy paper, he will deliver on his long-standing belief that India and the US are natural partners, and a Biden administration will place a high priority on continuing to strengthen the US-India relationship.

No common global challenge can be solved without India and the US working as responsible partners. Together, we will continue strengthening India's defense and capabilities as a counter-terrorism partner, improving health systems and pandemic response, and deepening cooperation in areas such as higher education, space exploration, and humanitarian relief, it said.

As the world's oldest and largest democracies, the US and India are bound together by our shared democratic values: fair and free elections, equality under the law, and the freedom of expression and religion. These core principles have endured throughout each of our nations' histories and will continue to be the source of our strength in the future, it said.

Noting that the Obama-Biden administration continued to deepen collaboration between India and the US on strategic, defence, economic, regional, and global challenges, the policy paper said that Biden was a major champion of growing and expanding the US-India partnership.

Recognising India's growing role on the world stage, the Obama-Biden administration formally declared US support for India's membership in a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council. The Obama-Biden Administration also named India a Major Defence Partner a status approved by the Congress to ensure that when it comes to the advanced and sensitive technology that India needs to strengthen its military, India is treated on par with our closest partners, it said.

President Obama and Vice President Biden also strengthened our cooperation with India to fight terrorism in each of our countries and across the region. 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 neighbours with impunity, his campaign said.

The Obama-Biden Administration worked closely with India to secure the successful signing of the Paris Climate Agreement to address the global climate crisis that threatens all our peoples, it said.

A Biden administration would bring the US back into the Paris Agreement, giving us the ability to again work closely with India to fight climate change and once more work hand in hand to reduce our carbon emissions and secure our clean energy future, without which we cannot build the green economy we need, it said.

In the 2006 interview, Biden before taking over the chairmanship of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee had argued that India-US relationship is the single-most important relationship that the US has to get right for its own safety's sake.

There's so many decades to overcome – some mistrust, some suspicion. The truth of the matter is that notwithstanding the fact that President Bush has followed on from (former president Bill) Clinton and reached out, there is still a lot of scepticism about Bush and his foreign policy ability in India. So there is a lot to overcome, he said.

This is the single most important development in my view, that's occurred in the last 20 years with regard to India and it's the basis upon which we can begin to build..., he said.

'Defining relationship of 21st Century'

The US President-elect believes India-US partnership is the defining relationship of the 21st century, and he plans to strengthen ties between the two countries.

Biden also believes that there is a lot of scope in bilateral trade. When the former vice president travelled to India, he set a goal of taking the bilateral trade to USD 500 billion, which as of now is little over USD 150 billion.

Biden had expressed his views on India-US relationship in multiple ways and platform during his election campaign as well. He took a strong objection to a remark made by President Donald Trump during the final presidential debate in which he described the air in India as "filthy".

"President Trump called India 'filthy'. It's not how you talk about friends and it's not how you solve global challenges like climate change," Biden said in a tweet, two days after Trump during a presidential debate accused China, India and Russia of not taking care of their "filthy" air.

"Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia. Look at India. The air is filthy," Trump had said during the debate.

Kamala Harris and I deeply value our partnership and will put respect back at the centre of our foreign policy," Biden said Saturday as he retweeted his op-ed in the latest issue of ethnic India West weekly.

We'll continue to value the US-India relationship. For Donald Trump, it's photo-ops. For me, it's getting things done, Biden said in his op-ed, in which he reflected on his track record of India-US ties.

Fifteen years ago, I was leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Republican Dick Lugar to approve the historic Civil Nuclear Deal between our nations and advance our technology sharing and defence cooperation. At the time, I said if the United States and India became closer friends, then the world will be a safer place, he wrote.

Biden said seven years ago, as vice president, he told business leaders in Mumbai that the US-India partnership was the defining relationship of the 21st Century. "The Obama-Biden years were some of the best we've ever had between our two countries. A Biden-Harris Administration will build on that great progress and do even more. We can and should be natural allies, he wrote.

That's why if elected President, I will continue what I have long called for: The US and India will stand together against terrorism in all its forms and work together to promote a region of peace and stability where neither China nor any other country threatens its neighbours. We'll open markets and grow the middle class in both the United States and India, and confront other international challenges together, like climate change, global health, transnational terrorism and nuclear proliferation, Biden said.

We will meet every challenge together as we strengthen both democracies fair and free elections, equality under the law, freedom of expression and religion, and the boundless strength both nations' draw from our diversity. These core principles have endured throughout each nations' histories and will continue to be the source of our strength in the future, he said.  

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