Defence, strategic and security relations will likely follow a path that has remained largely the same since 2000, but there is a divide in the Biden camp about its approach to China, which could have implications for India.
India and the US will have trade problems regardless of who occupies the White House. H-1B visas are unlikely to return to the way they used to be. However, a Biden administration could also bring up human rights violations in India, accusations of majoritarianism and Kashmir, which could gather traction in a Democrat-heavy Congress.
Here is what it means:
Biden and Kamala Harris
Biden comes with Kamala Harris, who, as vice-president, may play a big role in policy making. As he has indicated that he may be only a one-term President, Harris is a shoo-in candidate for 2024. Look out for how she weighs in on issues.
Common global challenges
Biden reached out to Indian-Americans in his campaign and has a benign view of India. The US-India relationship having become institutionalised will be difficult to undo. Anthony Blinken, a top Biden strategist, has said, We cannot solve common global challenges without India being part of the deal… strengethening and deepening the relationship with India is going to be a very high priority.”
Defence and security
Defence, strategic and security relations between a Biden administration and India will largely stay on the path they have followed since 2000.
Relations with China
Team Biden is divided in its approach to China. This would have implications for US-India and India-China relations. Some of his advisers have taken a Trump-like hawkish view of China. Others say it is impossible to disentangle the US and Chinese economies, so there may be a decoupling in national security and critical technology areas, but not more.
The Biden campaign has not made its Indo-Pacific strategy clear. As the region is the central focus of Indian foreign policy, this space would have to be watched.
India and the US will have trade problems, no matter who is in power. During the Obama administration, too, trade friction between New Delhi and Washington was rampant. A Biden administration is not going to be forgiving on trade. Besides, Biden has his own version of Make America Great Again. Bill Burns, a top adviser to Biden, has said: “First and foremost, American foreign policy must support domestic revival.”
Human rights violations
A Biden administration may take note of the alleged human rights issue in India, accusations of Hindu majoritarianism and the Jammu & Kashmir situation. This could gather traction in a Democrat-heavy Congress, particularly among the progressives.
Counterterrorism in Afghanistan
It was Biden who proposed the US keep only a counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan. So, Trump’s withdrawal of troops is unlikely to be reversed.
Biden will certainly take the US back into the Paris Accord on climate. But India can expect to come under fire from him on coal use.
H-1B visas are unlikely to return in the way they used to be. While this could impact Indian techies, the pandemic has boosted remote working.