Who will be better for India: Trump or Biden?

With just a day to go for the 2020 United States of America Presidential elections, the entire world is waiting in anticipation to know the eventual winner. This election has been hotly contested, with pundits claiming that it will be difficult to predict the winner. The significance of this election is not lost on Indian policy makers, as the US is one of the key strategic partners for India. Although the US-India partnership is expected to gain strength irrespective of who wins the US elections, the trajectory of the partnership will be determined by whether Donald Trump wins or Joe Biden does.

Trump is better for India:

Donald Trump has been a vocal supporter of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He calls the Indian PM a ‘true friend’ and has on many occasions lavished praised on him. He has also attended two huge rallies with Modi in Houston and Ahmedabad, showering his love for the country in his speeches.

Although Trump is known for his unpredictable outbursts (especially on Twitter), he has shown sufficient restraint while commenting on India’s internal affairs. Unlike several leaders in the opposition party in US, Trump has not raised objections to India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) or the abrogation of Article 370 which revoked the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir.

Trump has also not shied away from taking a hard stance on India’s two nemeses, Pakistan and China. While military funding for Pakistan has been curtailed and the country has been included in the grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), China has been accused of spreading the Coronavirus and its border dispute with India has resulted in increased moral and military support from the US.

Former Ambassador of India to the US, Navtej Sarna, in a response to The Hindu has said, “Over just three or four months in 2018, we saw the Strategic Trade Authorisation (STA) – 1 categorisation for India; the first 2+2 dialogue; the signing of the COMCASA in a shape acceptable to us; the approval by Congress for a general waiver provision in the CAATSA; a (temporary) waiver for India on Iran oil purchases and Chabahar… A very impressive list of strategic gains.” And by sending the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to India for talks just a week prior to the upcoming elections, Trump has shown that the US takes its partnership with India very seriously.

On the contrary, Joe Biden and his vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris have been very vocal on the human rights situation in India. BJP and Narendra Modi may have to tone down their hard-line politics during Biden’s presidency. Biden is also expected to go soft on China, which may not be particularly appetising for Indian policy makers.

Biden is better for India:

Joe Biden is a veteran in American politics, compared to the amateurish Trump. Having served in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for decades, Biden is well-versed in dealing with issues related to contemporary international politics.

It must be remembered that Biden has been an established friend of India. During the George W. Bush administration, Biden had written to Bush asking him to remove sanctions imposed on India by Bill Clinton after India had conducted the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998. Biden has also been instrumental in bringing the US-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement to fruition.

Biden’s campaign has released an expansive agenda focusing on relations with India and Indian Americans. The plan includes liberalisation of immigration rules, which will be a boon to many Indians aspiring to move to the US for studies and work. In an indirect reference to Pakistan, the agenda said, “Biden believes there can be no tolerance for terrorism in South Asia – cross-border or otherwise”.  The agenda also sided with India on its border clash with China, saying, “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.”

Biden is also expected to champion bilateral and global agreements on trade and climate change. His administration is expected to return US to the Paris climate agreement and cooperate with India and other countries, which have been accused by the Trump administration of not taking enough responsibility for climate change.

For all of Trump’s talk about his love for India and Indians, his administration’s policies have been especially hard on India and Indian Americans. The immigration policy has severely restricted opportunities for Indians, while trade barriers have increased due to tariffs imposed on a range of Indian goods. Trump’s majoritarian policies have led to a diminishment of democratic values in the US and across the world, and if continued, will not bode well for a peaceful and stable world in the long-term.

P.S. If you wish to watch all the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates of the 2020 US elections, visit the link here.