May you live in interesting times. It is an old Chinese saying that couldn’t ring any truer in 2020, especially with this COVID pandemic. But for the US, and in a way to the world, 2020 has still more interesting stuff to offer. 2020 is a Presidential election year in the United States, and Joe Biden is the democratic party nominee challenging the incumbent President Donald J. Trump. And with the recent polls, Joe Biden clearly has a great chance to unseat the Incumbent this November. But who is Joe Biden, and what is his stance toward India? Would he prove to be a better option than Donald Trump?
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Who is Joe Biden?
Those who are familiar with US politics need no introduction to Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. or, as he is commonly known, Joe Biden, the 47th Vice President of the United States.
Joe Biden has been a known personality in US Politics, elected in 1972 as a 30 years old Junior Senator from Delaware; Biden has served 36 years in the Senate chambers after being re-elected six more times.
In 2008, Biden was roped in as the Democratic Vice-President candidate to the then-Senator Barack Obama. The Obama-Biden ticket won that election, and Joe Biden became the 47th Vice-President of the United States of America.
What is Joe Biden’s stance toward India?
The Republic of India is a strategic and natural partner of the United States, with India being the world’s largest democracy and the US the oldest. India has support across the political lines – bipartisan, and Joe Biden is one of the biggest pro-India supporters out there.
As the Vice President, Joe Biden supported the passage of the India-US Nuclear Deal; in fact, he was one of the biggest proponents of the deal since its inception.
In a recent fundraiser, when asked about India-US ties, Joe Biden stressed the importance of strengthening relations with the ‘natural partner’ India and how it will be a high priority in his administration.
“That partnership, a strategic partnership, is necessary and important in our security,”
Biden reminded everyone of his support for the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement and how he was a key player in the passage of the bill through Congress stating,
“In our administration, I was proud to play a role more than a decade ago in securing Congressional approval for the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, which is a big deal. Helping open the door to great progress in our relationship and strengthening our strategic partnership with India was a high priority in the Obama-Biden administration and will be a high priority if I’m elected president.”
Joe Biden, referring to his eight years as Vice President to Barack Obama
Biden has a reputation for pulling no punches and being a straight shooter and a policy paper – Joe Biden’s agenda for the Muslim American community commented on the Indian government’s decision to revoke Article 370 in Kashmir and the controversial CAA & NRC, stating – In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy. Joe Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act into law. These measures are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.
A group of Hindu Americans has reached out to the Vice-President’s campaigns asking him to reconsider his views and for a similar policy paper for the Hindu-American community. Biden’s campaign has refused to comment.
How would Biden be different from Trump?
Revoking H1B1 Visa Restrictions
On June 23, 2020, the Donald Trump administration suspended H1B1 visas along with other foreign work visas until the end of 2020 in lieu to protect domestic American Workers in this tough election. (Note: the unemployment rate in the US is at an all-time high, and nearly 45 million applied for unemployment insurance last month)
H1B1 is the gateway for Indian IT professionals to work for big tech giants like Apple and Microsoft. It is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to allow thousands of foreign nations to work in technical fields. Every year US tech giants employ tens of thousands of Indian nationals as employees.
Biden promises to do away with those restrictions stating, “The people on the company visa have built this country. He just ended H-1B visas for the rest of this year. That will not be in my administration.”
Curbing the Democratic Congress
What is pretty clear, no matter the outcome of the Presidential election, is that the democratic party is going to control at least one chamber of Congress in the coming year. They might even get the Senate back as the recent polls are showing considerable democratic swings in states like North Carolina & Iowa, which are crucial for GOP to hold the Senate. It would come as no surprise to anyone that India has a problem on Capitol Hill.
Read India Has a Problem on Capitol Hill by Seema Sirohi to understand it better.
Largely the progressive wing of the Democratic party is of the view that India has moved away from its secular fabric and is bowing down to the vocal anti-Muslim elements and oppressing Indian Muslims as a result. Representative Ilhan Omar (MN-5th) is a vocal critic of the Indian administration and has commented on the ‘Kashmir question’ several times.
The Democratic Party and the Congress as a whole are still pro-India and have managed to curb these vocal Indian critics to an extent, but if Donald Trump is re-elected and is able to defeat Joe Biden, a moderate Democrat, these views will continue to grow. Joe Biden, who is largely a pro-India candidate, will be able to curb these progressive voices as the head of the executive wing.
Trade with India
Joe Biden is a globalist, not a protectionist like Donald Trump. With his policy of ‘America First’, Donald Trump has levied several restrictions and impositions on Indian trade and goods. Restrictions on H1B1 visas are just one of the several blocks placed by the Trump administration.
Joe Biden stands for liberalized trade and would be far more favorable for Indian trade if elected.
On expansionist China
China has been ever expansionist and belligerent, particularly in recent years, and it has been a US policy to curb their expansionism as much as possible. Joe Biden’s policy on China won’t be that much different from Donald Trump, but we can expect it to be more direct. The current administration is hesitant to engage China too much in the disputed South China Sea, and the comments have been sparse.
The India-US defense relations have been on the rise in recent years, with the US granting India STA-1 nation(third in Asia after Japan and South Korea) to ease the transfer of technology and with the recent US-India Defence Deal an agreement that allows the use of Air, Navy and land bases by both countries for repair & resupply purposes, the strategic relations have never been better. The US views India as a counterbalance to China in the Asia-Pacific region and is keen to provide India with the equipment and logistical support needed to do so.
The India-US strategic policy isn’t going to change much no matter who Biden or Trump is in the White House come the next January.
Make your own predictions on who is going to win this November; use this interactive map from 270towin
Follow all the latest polls on the Presidential election here.
Read on how George Floyd’s Protest will affect US Election this November.
Joe Biden taps Senator Kamala Harris for VP. Read here.
Joe Biden wins Presidency, becomes the 46th President of the United States, read here.
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