Biden Presidency: Trajectory Upwards For India?
Mr Peter Rimmele, Resident Representative to India of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, delivered the introductory remarks in which he said that a new President taking charge would not mean that everything changes. According to him, the US has certain interests and these are not going to change. “Outgoing US President Donald Trumps’s ‘America First’ policy is here to stay but in a version that is not so much in your face,” he felt. He also said that Indo-US relations have improved permanently, regardless of the administration and that this will go on.
Outgoing US President Donald Trumps’s ‘America First’ policy is here to stay but in a version that is not so much in your face~ Peter Rimmele
“When Donald Trump became President and took several decisions, including questioning the role of NATO, German Chancellor Angela Merkel mirrored what many Europeans felt in 2017—that Europe would need to take its destiny in its own hands,” he said and added that China is another major area of concern for the US and whatever policy the new US administration takes will have to be flanked by the Asian and European national efforts. He concluded by saying that it is a matter of speculation if the Biden administration will be looking at a rules-based international order that India and Germany believe in, or at the predominance of another newly upcoming superpower (China), which dictates its own understanding of an international order.
Air Marshal M Matheswaran (Retd) AVSM, VM, Ph.D moderated the discussion. He pointed out that the Trump administration was transactional in nature and, in dealing with countries, it followed a zero-sum game. He said that the US economy was doing well under Trump and there was a strengthening of Indo-US relations in strategic terms. But for his handling of Covid-19, Trump might have returned to power, he felt and said that the pandemic exposed the chinks in the US healthcare system and in its leadership.
The Trump administration was transactional in nature and, in dealing with countries, it followed a zero-sum game.~Air Marshal M Matheswaran (Retd)
Mr M K Narayanan, on a cautious note, said that he does not believe that Indo-US relations will greatly improve just because there is a Biden presidency. He felt that relationship with India will not be a top priority on the US agenda. Based on his earlier interactions with Joe Biden as Vice-President of the US, he felt that Biden is cautious by nature and that he takes considered decisions, unlike his predecessor Donald Trump. According to Narayanan’s calculations, Biden’s priority in his first 18 months will be domestic issues. On the external front, managing US-China relations will be their top priority since China is openly challenging the US pre-eminence in the economic field and is fast closing the gap in the military space as well. Europe that went out of Trump’s lens will come back to US focus. He predicted that in Biden’s team, Jake Sullivan as the NSA will be a key player and he believes in strategic co-existence rather than strategic competition. The new dispensation might perhaps question India on human rights-related issues and on its stand on Kashmir and Article 370.
Biden is cautious by nature and that he takes considered decisions, unlike his predecessor Donald Trump. ~Mr M K Narayanan
Ms Nirupama Rao said that entropy is a permanent state of global affairs today. Quoting a China expert based in the US, she said the US-China relations will be defined by 3Cs—competition, containment and confrontation. She summed up the roadmap of Indo-US relations under 4Cs—Continuity, Consensus, Co-operation and Compatibility. There will be continuity of relationship with India, consensus in the US about having a comprehensive, global, strategic partnership with India, mutual co-operation between the countries, and both nations have a natural compatibility. She said that Biden will take a middle road and not root for adventurism. She predicted that a Berlin wall will be coming up in Technology between US and China, especially in the backdrop of 5G and Huawei. She anticipates more intelligence-sharing and inter-operability between India and the US.
There will be continuity of relationship with India, consensus in the US about having a comprehensive, global, strategic partnership with India…~Ms Nirupama Rao
Dr V Anantha Nageswaran said that as per an article in the New York Times, blue-collar voters migrated towards Republicans and those with an annual income greater than $68,000 gravitated towards Democrats. Listing out the risks under the new administration, he said that the Indian rupee is likely to appreciate by 1-2 per cent every year and this may lead to Indian entities seeking higher foreign debt. The second risk factor flows from the question if Biden’s term will be a one-term rule or two-term rule, because of his age, and if Biden will be able to complete his four years as President in a healthy state or if it will be a Biden-Harris Presidency through the first term. “India will face headwinds through human rights concerns flagged by the US and also benefit from tailwinds,” he said. According to him, India does not stand to lose much by staying out of RCEP.
The panel also shared their views on the other Key Issues such as:
• What will be Biden administration’s stand on Trade, Technology and Investment?
• How will global economy react to the new administration?
• How will Indo-US military-industrial partnership shape up in the days to come?
• Will India be marginalized by China?
• What will be US stand on Afghanistan and Climate affairs?
• Will India benefit from the new US immigration policy?
• What will be the role of John Kerry as Biden’s Climate envoy?
• Will the UN reforms happen?
• Will the new administration help India in getting Permanent Member status in UN Security Council?
• Will the rise of far-right populism continue globally?
India will face headwinds through human rights concerns flagged by the US and also benefit from tailwinds~Dr. V Anantha Nageswaran