India and Biden

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IT took a while for the new US president Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have their telephonic interaction but the talks went along expected lines. The readouts shared by both the State Department and the MEA refer to two issues which figured prominently in the talks; climate change and a free and open Indo-Pacific. And both are significant in the light of the policies of the Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who had unilaterally withdrawn from Paris Climate accord saying it was unfair to the US. But re-joining the climate accord was among the first decisions taken by Biden. The new US president has further shown his commitment to measures against climate change by appointing no less than former Secretary of State John Kerry as the US climate envoy.

And as far as Quad, Biden’s policy is, more or less, in line with that of Trump. The cornerstone of Trump’s foreign policy, resting on a tough approach towards China, stays. The US has proposed to hold the first meeting of the leaders of the Quad—India, US, Japan and Australia— to confront and contain China’s rise.

This goes to the favour of India that is currently battling China’s incursions at four points along the Line of Actual Control. India will need US help to stand up to China. And the new US administration has made it clear that it stands firmly behind India in its ongoing confrontation with the communist giant. The State Department spokesperson Ned Price in his recent statement expressed concern about “Beijing’s pattern of ongoing attempts to intimidate its neighbours”. When asked about the new administration’s position on China’s growing aggressiveness towards India, Price said that the US is monitoring the situation along the Line of Actual Control.

But the one thing where New Delhi is chary of the new US administration is on human rights. The previous US administration had all but given up the US concern for the human rights around the world, taking at best a partial view of the issue. But the Biden administration has made it clear that it will not let go of human rights in its foreign policy pursuits. It will also be interesting to see whether the US will play any role in improving the India-Pakistan ties. The relations between the neighbours have plunged to their new low following revocation of Article 370 that granted J&K its semi-autonomous status under India’s constitution. The two countries need some serious prodding by the world’s super power to re-engage and sort out their differences. However, things will be clear in the weeks and months ahead. Key to the new US-India relationship will also be whether Modi-Biden are able to hit it off just like Modi-Trump had done.

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