India-US relations: Implications of Biden's administration

Since the US Presidential election, there is a debate among members of the academic and strategic community on the new US administration's policies and their impact on relations with India.
India-US relations: Implications of Biden's administration

RK Saha

Since the US Presidential election, there is a debate among members of the academic and strategic community on the new US administration's policies and their impact on relations with India. The bilateral relationship between India and the United States has evolved into a strategic partnership over the years. The relationship has greatly expanded to include cooperation in areas such as defence, commerce, nuclear energy, science and technology, which include space, the climate, and health. In 2020, the connection was elevated to a comprehensive global strategic partnership. When Joe Biden took office on January 20, 2021, the foremost pressing question was whether the Liberal Democrats would continue the policy devised by the Republican neoconservatives within the Trump administration. While the change of guard may imply a less contentious US approach to trade relations, it does not imply a significant shift in US strategic priorities or willingness to compromise on long-standing points of contention between the two countries. Early indications suggest that close strategic relations between India and the US are going to be continued under President Joe Biden. In the past, the Republicans have been more inclined towards India than the Democrats, and have offered a more India-friendly policy in the South Asian region. However, in recent years, India and US relations have generally remained steady regardless of which party is in power. While the personality of the leader's matters, relationships are between states and not between heads of state as demonstrated by US President Donald Trump's administration. In international relations, however, personalities should be taken into account because those in power shape foreign policy through their perceptions and attitudes. Despite several challenges, the India-US relationship has been consistent since the 1990s. With each succeeding US President building on the legacy of his predecessor.

President Biden's earlier policies towards India have remained largely positive. As a senator in 2008, he voted to approve the US-India civil nuclear deal, widely regarded as a watershed moment in the relationship. He was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, and he was the driving force behind the ratification of the agreement. He has called the relationship between the United States and India the "defining relationship" of the twenty-first century. He has also expressed his support for the Indian-American community, which has long been seen as a bridge between the two countries. During the early days of Biden administration, the administration has signalled that it will focus on two key areas of US-India cooperation: the promotion of a "free and open Indo Pacific," also because the strengthening of ties with two other close US maritime partners within the region, Australia and Japan, as a part of the "Quad" arrangement. These issues were discussed during a phone conversation between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Indian counterpart, Dr S Jaishankar. Biden has long believed that India and the United States are natural partners. Biden believes that South Asia, whether cross-border or not, cannot tolerate terrorism. According to a policy paper released by the Biden Campaign, Biden will deliver on his long-held belief that India and the United States are natural partners. It states that the Biden administration will prioritize strengthening the US-India relationship. He went on to say that no common global challenge could be solved unless India and the United States worked together as responsible partners. Both countries will work together to strengthen India's defence and anti-terrorism capabilities, improve healthcare systems and pandemic response capabilities, and expand cooperation in areas such as higher education, space exploration, and humanitarian aid. India-US relations are one of the few policy areas where both parties agree, particularly when it comes to defence cooperation. We must remember that the United States designated India as a "major defence partner" in December 2016. Biden was the Vice-President of the Obama administration at the time, and he wielded significant power over foreign policy. Because of this designation, India has had unrestricted access to dual-use American technologies since then. Biden will expand on the number of formalized arms sales and defence agreements signed by the Trump administration. President Biden has always been regarded as an Indian friend, and his views on China allow for the development of a bilateral security relationship in the coming years. During the campaign, he referred to India as a "natural partner". Following the election in November, during a phone call, Modi and Biden both reaffirmed their commitment to the strategic partnership between the US and India, as well as discussed common priorities such as the Indo-Pacific region's commitment to cooperation. However, as previously stated, President Biden has a strong sense of values, which includes Human rights, and his decisions to re-join the Climate Change Accords suggests that the other pillars of bilateral relations will not be neglected. Over the years, a solid foundation has been laid in Indo-US relations, which are marked by multifaceted dimensions such as political, economic, strategic, nuclear, and diplomatic facets. Climate change, trade, and visa-related issues are likely to see more cooperation under President Biden's administration.

Despite possible textural changes made by the Biden administration, overall India-US relations appear to be unchanged. Substantially speaking, the Biden administration is expected to strengthen strategic ties. India, like other Asian countries, seeks consistency and predictability in the relationship; however, this consistency is likely to be accompanied by criticism on domestic issues, which may pose a problem for India. Security and defence ties are likely to strengthen now that India has signed all four foundational defence agreements. Changing security dynamics in the Indian Ocean region and the larger Indo-Pacific region may increase the quantity and quality of security and military engagements between India and the US. As a result, India-US relations will see more constructive cooperation under the Biden Administration on the path to a burgeoning strategic partnership, despite many difficulties and challenges.

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