Joe Biden, the 46th POTUS, has the rare distinction of scoring either a century or a hat-trick in cricket parlance. Biden has seen Indo – US relations from close perspective two times under Obama and now this third term of his provides him a chance to add his touch to Indo – US relations. He also has a rare distinction of working with Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi for two years during the second term of the Obama administration. During the Obama Administration, India embarked on an ambitious foreign policy of proactively engaging American administration. Obama was the second US President who received the rare opportunity to address the joint session of Indian Parliament. President Obama announced publicly to support India’s claim to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. China hasn’t allowed that to happen because of its own insecurities via-a-vis democratic nations. Successive US Administrations post Clinton era have continued friendly foreign policy towards India. Most American policies towards India have been geared towards winning more Defense deals from India. In that regard, successive US Administrations have done fantastic work. India today operates the largest fleet of C-17 globe masters, in addition to Apaches AH64, C130 Hercules, M777 guns, Boeing Poseidon 8i and also upcoming Black Hawk R60 helicopters.
The focus of successive US administrations in building closer Defense relationship with India has been a huge success for American Defense contractors.
The civilian relationship between India and US has also been on an upswing. A large tax paying Indian American community has contributed significantly to the growth of American Economy. Today, India stands at ninth largest trading partner of the US. Indian American doctors today serve every seventh American today. Their contribution to space exploration is second to none. Almost 14% of billion dollar firms were started by Indian Americans in the last ten years alone. The Indian contribution to the Yoga industry of the US stands second to none with India being the original home of Yoga therapy. By rough estimates almost 40 million Americans have experienced the advantage of Yoga. Americans have experienced the warmth and positive contributions of the culturally vibrant Indian American community. The people to people connections between Indians and Americans have significantly multiplied within the last decade.
India today enjoys one of the highest soft-power in the minds of Americans. India has also emerged as a leader in the global fight against COVID-19 pandemic. India is the second largest vaccine producer today after the US. Indian vaccine diplomacy has helped more than 57 countries globally.
However, there have been some major irritants also in Indo-US relations which have dampened relations from time to time. The proactive USCIRF, a commission of USAID (under US State Department), has repeatedly engaged in promoting anti-India fake narratives against some internal law changes of India without any fact check. The lack of Indian American representation in USCIRF has destroyed the credibility of the State Department to a large extent. The propaganda based American Media organizations have repeatedly voiced the views of anti India forces to much chagrin of the growing Indian American community. The major private social media corporations such as Twitter & Facebook have been used to create internal disturbance in India, which has the potential to become a major diplomatic irritant between the two countries in the near future. There have been reports of Amazon circumventing Indian laws to challenge small traders in India, which also hasn’t been received well in India.
The American State department needs to become more aware of these challenges which significantly define public opinion against American interests.
Indian foreign policy makers would expect American State department to proactively address some of the challenges expressed above. Given the aspirations of Young Indians, Indian foreign policy also has kept up with them. State Secretary Antony Blinken has been a fantastic choice by the Biden administration. It remains to be seen if he would be able to take Indo-US relations further than where Mike Pompeo left. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be closely watched by Indian Defence planners on the issue of recent purchase of S-400 purchase by India. POTUS Biden’s and VPOTUS Harris’ leadership on these burning challenges will define the future of Indo-US relations in coming times to come.
Given Biden’s prior experience with India, it is noteworthy to note that he has always taken the best interests of both countries.