Trump or Biden — Who’s better for India?

Come November 3 and the USA will vote for its next President. Donald Trump, the sitting President and Republican Party Nominee is facing a tough challenge from Democratic Presidential Nominee and former two-term Vice-President under Obama, Joe Biden.

After the chaotic Trump-Biden debate on September 29, it’s clear that this is going to be a close fight. The result will have global geopolitical ramifications, especially for India because it needs friends in the White House, now more than ever.

How are Trump’s Chances?

The election year started well for Donald Trump- Unemployment was at an all-time low while stock markets were touching all-time highs. But this soon changed as Covid-19 hit the U.S. shores. The Trump administration downplayed the seriousness of the virus and testing rates remained sluggish.

The result was a catastrophe. More than 200,000 people have ended up dying from Covid-19 in the US since the beginning of the pandemic. More Americans now, around 57% disapprove of the president’s Covid-19 response while only 42% approve it.

Let us look at the positive and negative impact of each candidate on India.

Socio Economic Implications for India

If Trump gets re-elected

The Bad

  • H-1B visas: The Trump administration stopped issuing H-1B visas in the middle of the pandemic to “protect” domestic jobs. They’re expected to further harden immigration policies damaging India’s IT Service export prospects.
  • Deportation: Trump favours mass deportation of illegal immigrants from the USA. A 2017 study pegs this number as roughly 11 Mn, about half of whom are Indian. While Biden is in favour of family visas and changing the green card situation.
  • Trade Tariffs: Trump follows an America — First Trade Policy. He terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary developing nation under the GSP Programme in 2019*. He has also accused India of keeping tariffs high to keep out US imports.

*India was the largest beneficiary of the programme in 2017 with $5.7 billion in imports to the US given duty-free status.

Geo-Political Implications for India

If Trump gets re-elected

The Good

  • Non-Intervention: Trump administration displays a disregard for the internal policies of other countries and thus has overlooked the nullification of Article 370 and the CAA.
  • Strategic Arms Exports: Trump passed executive orders to accord India STA-1 status*, which was earlier enjoyed by only two Asian countries, South Korea and Japan.
  • US Aid to Pakistan: Brought down to USD 392 Mn in 2017–18 by Trump, from 2013–16 when it was consistently over USD 630 Mn.
  • Tough on China: Trump mounted an aggressive offensive against China by labelling the pandemic as the ‘China virus’ and subjecting it to a variety of trade sanctions and punitive measures.

*Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 allows for high-technology product sales to India, particularly in civil space and defense sectors.

The Bad

  • De-induction of US Troops from Afghanistan: Negative impact on India since pull-out of NATO troops as per Trump’s plan will destabilize the current Afghan Govt. India has consistently upheld the primacy of the democratically elected Afghan government while re-establishment of a friendly Authoritarian Islamist regime in Kabul has been a long-time goal for Pakistan.

Geo-Political Implications for India

If Biden gets elected:

The Bad

  • Interventionist: The Democrats have been vocal in its criticism of India for nullifying Article 370 and CAA. Biden has been quoted as being ‘disappointed’ about the CAA and worried that the Indian govt’s actions in Kashmir could ‘weaken democracy’.
  • Allegedly softer on China & Pakistan: Biden is said to be pro-China and had opposed Trump’s levy of tariffs on them. Especially from the viewpoint of the recent Ladakh skirmishes, this could be counter productive. In 2008, Biden was awarded the second highest civil award, the ‘Hilal-i-Pakistan’, from the Pakistan’s govt. in ‘recognition of his consistent support for Pakistan’.

The Good

  • Well defined and stable foreign polices: Unlike Trump, who fluctuates on foreign policies and continues to commit diplomatic hiccups, Biden is expected to have well defined foreign policies. He has been quoted as saying that his administration will “confront the threats that India faces along its border”, and there’ll be no tolerance for terrorism, cross border or otherwise.
  • Re-joining the PCA: Biden has confirmed that the US will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement under his Presidency. He has also pledged that the US would work towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Indian-Americans, the Kingmakers?

With around a month to go, both the Trump and Biden campaigns are touting their support for India to woo the 2–3 Mn strong Indian-American community, who have a strong presence in key battleground states. Indian-Americans have traditionally been Democrats and a massive 77 % voted for Clinton in the 2016 race.

Trump, who had professed his “love” for “Hindus” during his campaign in 2016, has appeared with PM Modi in two public events over the past 12 months, in Houston last year and in Ahmedabad in February.

Indian-Americans, the vote swingers?

This bonhomie with PM Modi seems to have worked to some extent. As per the AAPI Data Survey, Trump has made inroads into the Indian-American vote bank, the biggest ever by a Republican president.

On India’s Independence Day, Biden and vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris, who is of Half-Indian ancestry, addressed the Indian-American community, where both vouched their strong support for India.

Moreover, Trump questioning the credibility of India’s Covid-19 statistics on the first Presidential debate may polarise fence-sitting voters. As has been witnessed time and again, the diaspora just adores the motherland.

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News Line is it Anyway?

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