The incoming US President, Joe Biden, who takes his oath of office this week, is gearing up to build a potent partnership with India. Aside of Vice-President Kamala Harris, there is a considerable presence of people of Indian origin in the Biden team, suggesting great outreach to the Indian diaspora as part of this policy. This can prominently benefit trade and the Indo-Pacific strategy of building robust ties with Delhi to strengthen global democracy.
Both India and the United States are loud, noisy and vibrant democracies. They have overcome many social challenges without abandoning the democratic ideal. Americans may see a little bit of their own diverse and vast country in India. Indian immigrants to the US are a great success story, often enjoying median incomes far higher than other minority groups. Kamala Harris’ story is well known – a great matter of pride for the diaspora as she is also the first female Vice-President. She has never forgotten her Indian roots from her mother’s side; it is notable that she is a heartbeat away from the Presidency proper, given her role and President Biden’s advancing age. Her success in the 2020 election was a cause of joy in her ancestral village in Tamil Nadu.
It is a well-known fact that most US tech giants are led by Indian-origin Americans. To add to this, there are now 15 people of Indian origin in senior policy positions under Biden. Prominent amongst them include Vivek Murthy, reprising his Obama era role as Surgeon-General of the US, and Neera Tanden as Director of the Office of Management and Budgets. Some of the other key appointments in Biden’s new team include: Vinay Reddy as Director of Speech-writing, Gautam Raghavan as Deputy Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, and Bharat Ramamurti as Deputy Director of the National Economic Council. This demonstrates the influence of the Indian diaspora on a deeper level in all aspects of US public life. It is this diaspora expertise that is being tapped into to rebuild the Covid-ravaged American economy, which shrank by 33 per cent last year.
Geopolitically, balancing China’s rise as a hostile power will be the main strategic imperative. Beijing clearly aspires to regional, and global hegemony. Against this ominous backdrop, India with a large and powerful military of its own, will be an invaluable ally for the US. Recent announcements such as the lease of advanced military equipment from the US by India underline the positive direction of bilateral ties.
Trade with India will also powerfully grow under Biden, guided by the need to move supply chains out of China after coronavirus. American giants such as Apple, Samsung and Tesla are looking to shift their production out of China. While not the only beneficiary of the movement of supply chains, India stands to gain greatly from the lucrative transfer of manufacturing chains, whether it is of US or other Western countries, out of China. At the moment, India-US trade is worth $146 billion. At current rates of growth, India will be a priority trading partner for the US, especially as Biden seeks to reverse the vast economic damage wrought by the coronavirus lockdown.
As fellow democracies, ties between India and the US will continue to flourish, aided a lot by the contributions of Indian origin people.
by Jeevan Vipinachandran
Jeevan is a UK-based writer and political analyst specialising in political conflict and counter-terrorism. With a Masters in Comparative Politics: Conflict Studies from the London School of Economics (LSE), his core interest is in international relations with a special focus on the rise of India and its impact on the world stage.