Editorial

Mission Healing

| Updated on January 22, 2021

US President Joe Biden undoing the Trump legacy   -  Bloomberg

US President Biden has jumped into the task of smoothening the feathers ruffled by Trump

US President Joe Biden has hit the ground running, straightaway taking on the two monumental challenges: Subduing the pandemic and boosting the Covid-hit economy, which shed 140,000 jobs just in December. Biden unveiled a Covid-19 plan based on “science, not politics” and a $1.9-billion stimulus package. He has also got off to a good global fence-mending start by reversing his predecessor Donald Trump’s pullout from the Paris Climate Change Accord and the World Health Organization. Now, he must repair the ties with Europe, battered by Trump shocks. He rounded off the good work announcing an immigration “modernisation” legislation junking the per-country cap for job-based green cards. This should please Indian techies and the IT industry.

But the more contentious issues lie in Asia, with China firmly in the frame, and will impact India one way or the other. But the first moves portend well. Secretary of State nominee Anthony Blinken promises to give “very high priority” to strengthening the two-decades-old “bipartisan success story” of US-India relations. Incoming Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin plans to operationalise India’s “Major Defence Partner status”, which should ease weapons systems procurement and technology transfers. And, Biden’s Asia czar, Kurt Campbell, wants to strengthen the Quad, the India-Australia-US-Japan grouping. Biden has vowed to be tough on China but is expected to pursue a less “in-your-face” approach than Trump. If he can lower US-China trade war temperatures a notch, it might make Beijing less confrontational globally, and that could have spill-off benefits for India. Biden is also clear he would like to revive the Iran nuclear deal, which could have major implications for India. India annoyed the Iranians by going slow on developing Chabahar port, mainly because most Indian firms feared being blacklisted by the US for dealing with Iran.

For India, the irritants could be Austin making it clear that the US needs Pakistan to push through the Afghan peace process and that the US will also re-start the Pakistan military officer training scheme. India-US relations could also get mired because of CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), which mandates sanctions on anyone buying Russian arms. Also, there’s the constant Democrats issue: Kashmir and rights issues. Now, the Biden Administration could take a tougher line also on Article 370 suspension as well as issues like the CAA/NRC. Still, India and the US now have a common foe in China. As long as that over-riding consideration persists, Delhi and Washington are likely to draw even closer than before in the next four years.

Published on January 22, 2021

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