Workers wear protective face shields during a broadcast of the final debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at The Abbey, with socially distanced outdoor seating, on October 22, 2020
Workers wear protective face shields during a broadcast of the final debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at The Abbey, with socially distanced outdoor seating, on October 22, 2020
AFP

Although the 2020 United States presidential election is widely believed to be a major existential question for many of America's minorities and elsewhere in the world, depending on who wins the White House, on the diplomatic front, things are a win-win situation for India regardless of whether it's Joe Biden or Donald Trump who emerges victorious in the battle.

Irrespective of the outcome of Tuesday's keenly-contested US presidential election, America's strategic relationship with India is expected to maintain the current momentum and strengthen further, policy documents and remarks from the two campaigns indicate.

There are a few definitive factors behind this reasoning:

Joe Biden, a 'moderate' vs Donald Trump, a wild card

Although some in the liberal quarters across the world accuse Joe Biden of being a 'moderate' (as if that's somehow a bad thing), it is specifically his less volatile nature which may potentially prove beneficial to India and to Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, as well.

It would not be much of a stretch to say that Trump has one of those instinctive wild-card auras around him, as you never know what's his next off-the-cuff remark would be. He has ruffled sensitive feathers in the past, as a matter of fact, such as his sudden remarks on the Kashmir issue or India-Pakistan mediation that left Indian leadership quite uncomfortable, so to speak.

It is true that President Donald Trump, right in the first term of his presidency, had emerged as the best friend of India at the White House and him taking the relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a new level is well known, however, it is in India's best interests to work with any US leader that is democratically elected and not accede to manufactured fealties.

Former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, has a strong track record of being an ardent advocate of a strong India-US relationship both as a Senator from Delaware for over three decades and then as deputy of President Barack Obama for eight years.

From playing a key role in the passage of India-US civil nuclear deal during a Republican administration to setting up the goal of a USD 500 billion in bilateral trade, Biden has strong ties with Indian leadership across the aisle and has a large number of Indian Americans within his close circuit.

At a fundraiser in July, Biden had said that India and the United States were natural partners.

"That partnership, a strategic partnership, is necessary and important in our security," he said when asked whether India is critical to the US' national security.

Referring to his eight years as the vice president, Biden said that he was proud to have played a role in securing Congressional approval for the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, which he said was 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," Biden had said.

2+2 ministerial

The ground for India-US relationship post-November 3 was laid down during the recently concluded 2+2 ministerial held in New Delhi.

Officials from the two countries, both during and after the ministerial, underscored that the ties have bipartisan support and it is not based on which party occupies the White House or has a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

It is very well expected that there could be a change in nuances or emphasis on certain elements of the relationship, on who occupies the White House or have majority in the Congress, the common national interest of the two countries in terms of democracy and threat being posed by China, would drive the momentum between India and the US.

Bilateral trade

Under the Trump administration, defence and energy are being identified as two key pillars of the strategic relationship, along with the cooperation and collaboration in the health sector in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. However, differences on issues related to bilateral trade, foreign workers visas would continue to remain.

Notably, India is the only major country with which the Trump administration failed to arrive at a trade deal, even a mini-trade deal, despite the fact the top leadership of both India and the US expressed their desire to do so.

Given the track record of differences between the two countries for the last three decades, the sharp differences are likely to remain the same even during a Biden administration.

However, the bilateral trade is likely to grow at a fast pace between India and the US irrespective of who comes to power. Officials from the two countries are likely to pick up the thread from the trade negotiations that they have almost concluded this year.

India will continue to place massive orders towards purchase of defense equipment and take the bilateral energy trade to a new level.

Climate change

Under a Biden administration, climate change would emerge as another pillar of co-operation. Because of domestic political compulsions, human rights issues are expected to gain more prominence under a Biden-Harris administration, which could emerge as a bump on the road for India-US ties.

It is similar to that of H-1B issue and issues like taxation in India, under the second term of the Trump administration. But none of the issues during either a Biden or a Trump administration are likely to be a deal-breaker.

Countering Chinese 'authoritarianism'

Biden this week announced to convene a global summit of democracies in the first year of his presidency to counter the 'rising authoritarianism' in the world and address issues of election security and human rights.

India, obviously, will play a key role in this summit. Similarly, under the Trump administration, India is likely to be a key partner of the US as it ramps up its global mobilisation against aggressive Chinese behaviour, especially in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.

It is expected that Prime Minister Modi would be among the first few world leaders to talk over phone and congratulate the winner as soon as it is known who would occupy the White House for the next four years.

(With inputs from PTI)

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