Biden certainly will not take any stand which would prove antithetical to the growing bonhomie in India-US ties

After a series of tumultuous events in the United States, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America on 20 January 2021. How the United States will shape its orientations towards India in the Biden administration is featuring in all the major debates among members of the academic and strategic community. The narrative that the US has done fairly well in having a constructive engagement with India when Republicans are in power needs introspection. One can come up with a counter narrative that the strong foundations for bilateral cooperation between India and the United States were built during the time of President Bill Clinton, who was a Democrat. The Democrats have slowly and steadily changed their perception about India. The last phase of the Clinton years was a turning point in India-US relations, though India-US defence cooperation was signed in 1995 during Clinton’s first term. The day Clinton stopped using his famous phrase “cap, roll back and eliminate” in the context of India’s nuclear weapon de facto status, there was a sea change in mutual perceptions. All the existing misperceptions paved the way for evolving a robust bilateral strategic engagement. Clinton’s visit to India in March 2000 was perhaps a new beginning in India-US relations.

The United States understood India’s predicament and deteriorating regional security environment. The rationale for India going nuclear was very well understood by the United States. India’s nuclear weapons status was seen until then as an irritant in the bilateral relationship and finally it became a cornerstone in the existing strategic engagement. The credit goes to Clinton’s Presidency for providing a platform in the form of Strobe Talbott-Jaswant Singh Dialogue. The benchmarks for the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) were based on the bilateral understanding and reflected a willingness to work on mutually identified strategic core areas such as nuclear, outer space, defence technology and harmonization of export control policies.

Over the years, a strong foundation has been built in India-US relations with a multifaceted dimension such as political, economic, strategic, nuclear and diplomatic. The India-US strategic engagement has come a long way and is predicated on the changing dynamics of geopolitics, where it seems China’s rise features prominently in the current dynamics. The evolving global disorder because of the “Wuhan virus” has provided opportunity to both India and the US for strengthening their relationship. India will emerge on the top of the US radar because of geopolitical compulsions. Biden certainly will not take any stand which would prove antithetical to the growing bonhomie in India-US ties. India and the United States have converged on a number of issues impacting global peace and stability. India is being perceived as a responsible and potential greater power in the making. The bilateral strategic engagement has witnessed a greater emphasis in this emerging world order. NASA-ISRO cooperation is at its peak in outer space matters. India and the US have set up a Mars Working Group. Raytheon is playing an important role in India’s Gagan navigation system.

The US will obviously be continuing with its supply of conventional weaponry to India. United States might become integral to India’s “Make in India” campaign. India would very much like to transition itself from a net importer of conventional weaponry to a net exporter of these weapons. The Inter Agency Task Force, which has been a part of the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), has been seriously engaging in identifying the parameters for such defence cooperation. India has been contemplating to the possibilities of manufacturing F-16 and F-18A combat aircraft. Defence co-production involving the critical technology will remain a challenge, but the commitment shown on the part of the United States towards India is something worth mentioning.

It would be in US interest if the Biden administration has continuity in its foreign policy orientations towards India. India-US counter terrorism cooperation has provided good dividends to both sides by realizing the containment of threats emanating from terrorism. The military to military exercises has experienced a very positive phase in the maritime domain. India’s role in the Indo-Pacific security architecture is going to be vital along with the United States’. The role of Indian diaspora in Biden’s Administration will become dominant in the key policies domain.

India and the US together will have to assume the responsibility and lead the world affairs. India’s growing significance in almost all the domains, whether it is maritime or outer space, is being understood by the rest of the world in general and the US in particular. The China factor has to be dealt with especially on its aggressive posturing around the world. India must work on mobilizing international public opinion and expose China on all fronts. The Biden administration will be very important in continuing with the positive atmosphere and work with India for global peace and stability.