Romanticising the US election results – Rajesh Singh

Joe Biden & Pope Francis

Rajesh SinghWill Biden’s attitude towards terrorism that emanates from Pakistan, be soft or as firm as that of Trump? Will he seek to take a middle ground on the ongoing India-China border row or adopt a strong pro-India line that the Trump administration had taken? Will he, with his Left-liberal leanings, wade into India’s internal matters such as the abolition of Article 370 and the Citizenship Amendment Act? – Rajesh Singh

Something funny is happening in India in the aftermath of the US presidential election results. Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are celebrating and taking potshots at Modi as if he has been beaten in an electoral battle. It won’t be long before some dumbhead suggested that Donald Trump lost because of his proximity to Modi.

The Shiv Sena has remarked that while the Modi government said Namaste Trump, the American people retorted with Goodbye Trump. Donald Trump was the President of the United States of America when the event was organised in India during Trump’s visit here. Were Indians not supposed to greet a visitor, ahead of state and government at that? Of course, some Indians would rather felicitate terrorists, separatists and Maoists.

India accorded a warm welcome to President Trump, not private citizen Trump. It will surely extend a similar welcome to the new president of the United States, if and when he visits the country. Much is made of Modi’s friendship with Trump to take swipes at the latter. But Modi also bonded famously well with Barack Obama, with the two openly gushing about their friendship. Remember the famous tea event at Hyderabad House?

There has been a surge of romanticism in India over the US results. [Catholic] Joe Biden, who is expected to take charge in January 2021, is being hailed as a unifier, one who will reclaim the “soul of America”—whatever that means—and reverse all the malevolent policies of his predecessor.

As an Indian, I couldn’t care less about Biden’s philosophical leanings or his domestic political strategies. What I would watch carefully is how he, as president, crafts his narrative on issues that are of the paramount security interest to us Indians. Will his attitude towards terrorism that emanates from Pakistan and harms India, be soft or as firm as that of Trump? Will he seek to take a middle ground on the ongoing India-China border row or adopt a strong pro-India line that the Trump administration had taken? Will he, with his Leftist-liberal leanings, wade into India’s internal matters such as the abolition of Article 370 and the Citizenship Amendment Act? Will he harp on the supposed human rights violations in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country—a constant refrain of the India Left-liberal gang?

It is possible that Biden will pluck some of the low hanging fruits to gladden India. For instance, he could relax the H1B visa rules. His supporters will pull out his old statements that demonstrate a favourable opinion about India. It is true that he played a significant role in the India-US civil nuclear deal that happened during the George W. Bush tenure. It is also a fact that he has been a strong votary of deepening engagements between the US and India on matters of defence and strategic security. Now we have to see if he walks the talk as president.

On the global front, some people will be happy with Biden coming into the White House. The Pakistanis must be feeling relieved, for instance. The Trump Administration had made life miserable for both Islamabad and Rawalpindi, both verbally and in actionable terms. It had come down hard on Pakistan’s link with terror groups and imposed heavy sanctions. The Administration’s senior members had spoken strongly against Pakistan’s failure to curb terror activities that spread in the latter’s neighbourhood. Now, the Pakistani will be hoping that things will be back to the old normal—with the Administration making loud proclamations but doing little substantially to punish Pakistan. We saw this happen during the Obama and the Bush reigns.

China too would be glad by the new occupant of the White House. Biden is unlikely to pursue with Trump’s belligerence towards Beijing, thus giving the latter room to further its deception on the world. But there is a caveat here. Even if Biden wants, he cannot completely ease the pressure—the global realities today are different and China cannot be let off the hook.

One other country that will be pleased by the change is Iran. Biden may revive the nuclear deal, struck during Obama’s time, with Tehran. Sanctions may be partially lifted. This will give the Iranian leadership legroom to proceed secretly with their nuclear programme while outwardly professing to follow the agreement which calls upon Iran to halt the project.

Then there is [the Black Baptist] Kamala Harris, the Vice President-elect. The media has gone to town with her Indian [connection] as if that is going to count in the way she perceives contentious issues. Merely because of her Indian [links], she is unlikely to be soft on India. On the contrary, sensitive to criticism that she would be biased because of her Indian connection, Kamala Harris could at times adopt a hard line—on matters of Kashmir, for example.

Meanwhile, a defeated Trump is being painted as a monster, a demon who nearly devoured American values and ethos. It is easy to forget his achievements in such circumstances. He presided over a robust US economy, and his initiatives led to a thaw in the relationship between Israel, the Arab world and the Gulf nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE. There was relative calm in West Asia due to his hands-on approach. Of course, he did some things wrong too, like withdrawing from the climate change pact.

But no leader is perfect. Trump wasn’t, and neither were his predecessors. Biden will not, too. For now, it is too early to celebrate his victory. Let’s see what and how he delivers. – PGurus, 10 November 2020

Rajesh Singh is a Delhi-based senior political commentator and public affairs analyst.

Kamala Harris & Maya Harris