The victory of Joe Biden and Kamal Harris in the United States Election comes the next most prime question as far as India is concerned, as “How this duo would have an impact on India?” Ms Harris becomes the first Indian American Vice President of the US, a position that has the immense potential to change the Indian perspective towards US and vice versa. The relationship between the countries is also exceptionally crucial for India, where the economy shrank by 23.9 per cent in the first quarter of the 2020-2021, the largest drop recorded over the years and the greatest setback a major economy has experienced from the coronavirus pandemic.
Congratulations @JoeBiden on your spectacular victory! As the VP, your contribution to strengthening Indo-US relations was critical and invaluable. I look forward to working closely together once again to take India-US relations to greater heights. pic.twitter.com/yAOCEcs9bN
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 7, 2020
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to congratulate both Mr Biden and Ms Harris. “As the [Vice President], your contribution to strengthening Indo-US relations was critical and invaluable,” he wrote in a tweet addressed to Mr Biden. “I look forward to working closely together once again to take India-US relations to greater heights.”
To Ms Harris, PM Modi addressed and said that her success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride for all Indian-Americans. He expressed his confidence in Ms Harris over strengthening the vibrant India-US ties her support and leadership.
Heartiest congratulations @KamalaHarris! Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans. I am confident that the vibrant India-US ties will get even stronger with your support and leadership.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 7, 2020
Biden-Harris’s take on India’s Policy
Since PM Modi was re-elected in 2019, he brought a series of policies seen by many in the country as unduly targeted at India’s Muslim minority. The revocation of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status also known as scraping of Article 370, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) where it is easier for adherents of most large faiths practised in South Asia, except Islam, to claim citizenship in India. This was well criticized by Indians in the country, outside the country and many other countries opposed it too.
Mr Biden and Ms Harris have been quite vocal about issues about India. Ms Harris could be more indulged towards takes on India’s policies and actions as she is an Indian origin herself hailing from the state of Tamil Nadu.
In his Agenda for Muslim-American Communities, Mr Biden condemned the PM Modi government’s new citizenship act and a separate effort to build a population register (CAA/NRC) that could provide future justification to expel or intern foreigners. He called these actions were “inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.”
Mr Biden has also taken in charge of strengthening the US-India relationship. “The US and India will stand together against terrorism in all its forms and work together to promote a region of peace and stability where neither China nor any other country threatens its neighbours,” he wrote in an Indian-American newspaper.
The big question remains, how strongly it will push back against the Indian government’s policies. “The US would not go in and intervene in domestic matters in India beyond a certain point,” says Surupa Gupta, a professor at University of Mary Washington’s Department of Political Science and International Affairs.
The Kashmir’s conflict is an age-long one. Still, India has firmly maintained that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which both India and Pakistan claim as their own, is a domestic issue, and don’t require external powers to resolve it.
It was seen in the public statements; both by Mr Biden and Ms Harris have affirmed that their Administration would look into the matters more than Donald Trump to hold India account over its actions in Jammu and Kashmir.
“In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir,” says Mr Biden’s Agenda for Muslim Americans, published on the campaign’s website.
“Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy.”
Ms Harris said openly, “We have to remind Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world,” she said in October 2019, when she was a candidate in the Democratic primaries. “There is a need to intervene if the situation demands,” said added.
Limiting these claims to gaining the confidence of voters is opposite to taking such drastic steps towards an ally. It will change the demographics of the two country’s relationship as a diplomatic relationship requires a 360-degree viewpoint of pros and cons.
Effect of their Compassion
Indians and the diaspora feel a connection with Ms Harris as she has been looked upon as one of our own. Every community and individuals find her approachable and have expectations that they will be heard in times of crisis.
Greater expectations will also bring spotlight, both in India and in the diaspora.
“A lot more people and groups will be reaching out to (Harris) directly, that she should be speaking out or taking a position on certain Indian issues because she knows that part of the world and because that is part of her identity,” says Sangay Mishra, assistant professor at Drew University and author of Desis Divided: The Political Lives of South Asian Americans.
The essence of this has already begun: It was in October, Indian Americans launched an email campaign asking Ms Harris to take action on the rape of 19-year-old Dalit girl in Uttar Pradesh.
These actions if taken by Mr Biden and Ms Harris, might lead to disrupted bilateral relations between the US and India which is seen to be on good lines for a long time.
The issues of India and that of Indians shouldn’t necessarily hinder its international affairs. The Democrats in Washington can’t be the reason behind changing demographics of Asia’s largest democracy.
After a heavy GDP downfall due to the pandemic, it would be wise for countries to look after themselves and grow out from the chaos created by the pandemic.
The Modi-Trump friendship did help the relations of their countries. Trade was strengthened, and the two became an ally to face China and its tactics. Internal affairs of a country are theirs to deal with unless the matter is entirely out of hand, which in this scenario seems controlled.
A lot might change with the commencement of this new phase in the West, but it is essential to know that external interference can harm the global stand that India has created over the years. Criticizing the government is a necessary pillar of democracy; the ones directly affected by the actions attacking it makes it a sensible choice.