Opinion

Promising era ahead for India-US relations

Punit Renjen | Updated on November 17, 2020 Published on November 17, 2020

Friendly stance | Throughout his career, President -elect Joe Biden has championed India-US relationship

The incoming Biden-Harris administration’s proposals on climate, health and economy stand to benefit India

Indians around the world have marked a milestone: One of our own, with roots in Tamil Nadu, has been elected to the second-highest office in the US. Amongst the Diaspora and in India itself, Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris made history. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called her success “path-breaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans.”

He is right. And, the second part of his statement — “I am confident that the vibrant India-US ties will get even stronger with your support and leadership” — will likely prove just as accurate. That’s not just because of who the Vice-President-elect is; it’s also because of what she, and President-elect Joe Biden, are committed to.

Throughout his career, Biden has championed India-US relationship. In 2006, he said, “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States.” When he takes office in January, he will have the chance to make that dream a reality.

Biden and Harris have already outlined some of the ways their administration plans to collaborate with India to address today’s most pressing issues — for both countries, and for the world at large.

One of those key issues is our climate. In his campaign for the presidency, Biden committed his administration to taking seriously the threat that climate change poses. He has vowed swift action to ensure that the US achieves a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050, and to help other countries meet their own climate goals.

These are commitments that will serve India well, because the challenges facing the US are the same ones facing the subcontinent. As a school student in Himachal Pradesh, I have a vivid recall of looking at the majestic Himalayas from my classroom windows. But air pollution in the decades since has obscured that view. And each year, the frequency and intensity of heat waves and flooding across the country have been increasing.

Fighting climate change

Already, India has made strides of its own to fight climate change and adopt cleaner sources of energy, including the formation of the International Solar Alliance five years ago. Now, with a supportive incoming US President — and multinational organisations like ours joining the UN Global Compact and making our own commitments to achieve net-zero emissions and improve ESG reporting — the opportunity is ripe for India and the US to help heal the planet. Together, the two countries can collaborate on the funding, research, and development efforts necessary to usher in a cleaner, greener future.

Another important issue is health. Right now, India and the US share the disappointing distinction of being the two countries most adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. From New Delhi to New York City, the effects of Covid-19 have been nothing short of devastating. And one thing is clear: to beat a virus that doesn’t stop at borders, we need an unprecedented level of medical and scientific collaboration that doesn’t stop at borders, either.

By supporting the cooperative global effort to develop, manufacture, and widely and equitably distribute a vaccine, the incoming Biden administration offers a ray of hope — not just to the US, but to India as well — that this pandemic might finally be beaten the only way possible: through multilateral cooperation with a united front.

H-1B visa process

And, finally, there is the issue of our economies. Biden’s proposed policies stand to benefit India by reforming the H-1B visa process and lifting the green-card cap entirely for PhDs in STEM fields; investing in green energy and infrastructure around the world; and recognising India as an important part of global supply chains. CEOs in the US and elsewhere are near-unanimous in the belief in the future of India, and eager to invest in its people, its productive capacities, and its promise. The opportunities in the country’s food processing, pharmaceutical, defence, textile, and electronic sectors loom large and long-term — sectors where foreign direct investment (FDI) would create real jobs and make a real difference.

This is a real opportunity for Indian policymakers and business leaders to reinvigorate the country’s economy and prime it for success. Given the impact that Covid-19 has had on the global and Indian economy it’s clear that change isn’t just necessary, it also can’t come quickly enough.

New laws reforming agriculture and labour, passed during the pandemic, are a necessary and laudatory first step. So too are reforms to the operating protocols for prospective FDI, which add to India’s competitiveness. By continuing on this path and harnessing the Biden administration’s commitment to a cooperative global economy, India has a real opportunity to continue to uplift its own.

Indians have something else to celebrate: more impetus to its strong relationship with the US. With an incoming Vice-President who has roots in the country and an incoming President who has spent his career championing its potential, Indian-US relations are set to achieve greater success — to the benefit of our environment, our public health, and our countries’ economies.

The writer is CEO, Deloitte Global

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Published on November 17, 2020
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