Hug diplomacy with US is over

Democrat administration of US is expected to be reasoned, mature and act towards India as a friendly country. She would not club it with China and other countries on issues of trade, climate change, oil and defence exports etc.

The Trump administration’s growing hard-line on China has aligned well with India at a time of growing Chinese aggression at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Trump took a hard line on Pakistan, if only to avoid giving money to Islamabad. Yet in the bargain, he also ceded space to Islamabad in the Afghanistan peace talks.

A Democrat administration is likely to go back to the drawing board on the US-Iran nuclear deal, opening up not just Iranian oil but also strategic space for India with Iran in the Middle East. A Biden-Harris presidency may also look differently at the Paris Agreement, visas for Indian workers, and so on. All things considered, Biden should be good for India, even if he’s less keen to see relations with India in the personalised format that PM Modi prefers, and see them more as government-to-government relations.

The Indian origin voters despite #Howdy Modi and #Namaste Trump and in spite of an exuberant and undiplomatic slogan “Ab Ke Bar Trump Sarkar”-only 31% voted for Trump and rest for Biden.

Electoral experts say, the 2020 United States presidential election has recorded the highest voter turnout in 120 years. According to preliminary estimates of the US election project, an estimated 239 million people were eligible to vote this year, of which nearly 160 million exercised their right to franchise. The figure is likely to be updated in the coming weeks.

In a Pew Research ranking of voter turnout in the most recent nationwide elections, the US is placed at 30th position out of 35 nations. The highest voter turnout was reflected in a high vote support to both Biden and Trump. As of Thursday afternoon, Biden had received over 72 million votes, which is eight million more than Hillary Clinton got in 2016. Trump has so far ( at the time of writing this piece) bagged over 68.5 million votes, which is the highest Republican turnout.

According to the experts voters of 2019, non-Hispanic White Americans at 69 per cent make up the largest share of registered voters in the US. Hispanic and Black registered voters each account for 11 per cent, while those from other racial or ethnic backgrounds account for the remaining eight per cent.

By far these elections have projected the Democrat Biden will make it to Whitehouse. It was under a Republican administration led by George Bush in 2005 that the United States had denied visa to Gujarat chief minister named Narendra Modi. A Democratic president, Barack Obama, went around hugging PM Modi. His republican successor, Donald Trump, is prone to lash out at India over a few motorcycles, and yet the strategic ties between the two countries have only been growing.

No matter who wins an election in New Delhi or Washington, India-US ties only get stronger. That caveat aside, it is important to note the ups and downs in the diplomacy and mutual relationship.

If Joe Biden becomes the next US president, and assumes office in 3rd week of January next year, he can only do better for India than Trump did. But Biden may not be politically good for Modi. Such nuanced matters, even if we may not like to hear, the truth that India isn’t Modi and Modi isn’t India. The country is bigger than its leader, no matter how popular he/she is.

In January 2015, in the backdrop of a right wing campaign against minorities, Barack Obama spoke in Delhi just before leaving for the airport. In this address, he lectured India on religious tolerance. “No society is immune from the darkest impulses of men and too often religion has been used to tap into those instead of the light of God. Every person has the right to practice any faith or none as he chooses without the fear of prosecution,” Obama saidin a speech that was virtually ticking Modi off in his own capital.

Democratic president nominee Joe Biden during his campaign asserted that if elected, his administration will stand with New Delhi in confronting the threats it faces and called for strengthening the “bond” between India and the U.S.

 “Fifteen years ago, I was leading the efforts to approve the historic civil nuclear deal with India. I said that if the U.S. and India became closer friends and partners, then the world will be a safer place,” Biden, who was vice-president in the Obama administration, said while addressing the Indian-American community on India’s Independence Day.

If elected president, Biden said, he will continue to believe this and also continue to stand with India against the threats it faces from its own region and along its borders.

A Biden presidency will deepen India-US ties thanks to rising China, but when it comes to hugging Modi, the Democrats might remember how Modi lent himself to the Trump campaign.

Ashok Bhan is Senior Advocate, and geo-political analyst