Trump vs Biden: Who's Better for New Delhi?

No elections on this earth can ever have more influence, foreign viewership, interest and impact than the US elections. America is the most powerful country on this planet without any doubt and its democratic establishment is one which everyone looks up to for guidance and planning. This democratic force and power is one which makes its elections; the world’s most important elections. The power and influence that the United States of America has led to its election’s outcome being so important and impactful. America’s policies and decisions have an impact on the whole world. In 2016, Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States of America. This had a wide and loud impact on the world. We saw trade wars with European nations and China. Withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accord. The shifting of the American embassy to Jerusalem. The summit between Kim Jong Un and Trump. The signing of COMCASA and now BECA with India. America’s take on NATO and its relevance. Now, the pandemic leads to decoupling between the US and China. These have been major happenings and all this happened because of Trump’s victory in 2016. What the 2020 election holds for India is crucial. Here we will examine who is the best man for India in the White House?

On Economy

Biden is a textbook person and will remain a textbook president always. During the Obama years, Biden was extremely Pro-China in terms of economy, he had supported China’s rise and also it’s membership in WTO. During the Obama and Biden years, the United States trade enforcement policy was used. This policy hurt Indian trade, market and domestic interests in many sectors. Trump obviously has the image of ‘tough on trade’ but it was the Obama-Biden administration which was tough on India in many areas.

Trump had slashed tariffs on Indian products too but the US-CHINA trade war indirectly benefited India. As it hurt the Chinese economy, many manufacturers planned to move out from China to other nations like India too. This also benefited India in international market biddings. It obviously hurt us too but was of benefit in multiple ways. Trump’s electorate and America becoming excessively Anti-China. Due to Trump’s tariffs on China and his comments on Apple’s business in China, we have seen Apple shift its operations to India. Even companies like Hewlett Packard and Dell are shifting operations to India. India will benefit if Trump is re-elected, in a comprehensive power parity, as China goes down, opportunities for India increase. Not all companies are coming to India but they are leaving China at a faster pace and going to nations like South Korea and Vietnam too.

On Military

No doubt - Trump is the best man when it comes to military benefits to India. To Trump, military sales mean business. Trump signed a $3 billion deal of military equipment with India. Trump’s administration has also shared sensitive and high-value military intelligence with India. Agreements like COMCASA and BECA, and the similar natured businesses benefit our country. As the Obama administration was a bit reluctant to these military trades and pacts, Biden will be following the same playbook. The Democratic party’s establishment is not very open to the idea of weapon trading with countries like ours. Another angle to the same debate is China’s rise which has led to Americans rethinking their Asia Pivot. Trump’s administration wants a stronger India to counter China in Asia. This will be in the best interests of both nations. This gives us a reliable partner and military power as our backer when it comes to a serious conflict or need. This rebalancing in Asia is without any doubt in Indian advantage. Our military needs the know-how of the Americans to counter the Chinese agressions, and in case of a deterioration in Indo-Russian relations, an alternative is extremely important. The Trump administration’s commitment to QUAD also goes in India’s favour. During the Obama-Biden years, it was all talk, no substantial action.

On International Co-operation

Trump has no interest in the current international institutions. He sees them as not beneficial to America. What don’t they benefit America, Trump refuses to comment. Trump has left more than 10 international agreements and deals like the Paris Accords, Iran Nuclear Deal, NAFTA ( replaced by USMCA ) and TPP. In the international cooperation field, thus, only the Biden Presidency can benefit us. Biden will try to amend these institutions with the help of American influence which will help India. The Biden reformist and institutionalist presidency will be Pro-India when it comes to the United Nations and other international groups. But this has its cons too. Biden and Kamala have been vocal about the Kashmiri situation and India’s handling of the region. We may see the democratic establishment be a bit apprehensive of India when it comes to Kashmir. Also, Biden can corner India on religious issues. But all in all, India will benefit from American influence in the International arena as now America needs Indian support more than ever.

It will depend on India how it manages the Kashmir talk with the Biden administration if he is elected.

On Geopolitics

Trump has brokered peace deals between Israel-UAE, Bahrain, Sudan. This indirectly benefits India. Now we will be able to do business with both these Arab nations without worrying about creating a balance. Trump’s aggressive stance on China and sending of warships and aircraft carriers in Indo-Pacific is in India’s advantage. Stability in regions like the Middle East and Afghanistan if achieved by the Trump administration, which the US is likely to will prove India’s benefit. Biden’s political history has been of dialogue. Which shows that in the case of China, Biden will end up striking a middle ground with the Middle Kingdom. This will not prove advantageous for India. There is one place where Biden will prove more advantageous for India and that is Iran. It was the Obama-Biden administration which struck the Iran Nuclear Deal and lifted the sanctions. Trump, on the other hand, left the Iran Nuclear Deal and reinstalled sanctions on Iran. The Biden administration will be helpful as India’s trade with Iran for cheap oil and strategic ports like chabahar will take way without worrying about US sanctions or backlash. In terms of Pakistan, Trump will be the better President for us, due to his continuous critical stance, and termination on its funding. Biden and Kamala, on the other hand, have been vocal about Kashmir. In Geopolitics, both Candidates have their pros and cons for India. There is no complete best man.

On immigration

The issue of immigration is one on which President Trump has strack views. He wants American demographics and the American jobs remain with the American people. The policy of ‘America First’ and ‘buy American, hire American’ is what Trump’s administration has pushed for. This has led to H1B visa restrictions but the other side of this visa restriction does benefit India as the brain drain by immigration is of considerable worry and extent. Indian companies and the tech industry have more skilled people available in the country to hire from. Many end up starting their own startups as the government is offering subsidies through the Startup India programme. But the precious money that comes from the Indian American community to India will be affected by this restrictive policy. This is where Biden is better for India. Biden has vowed to ease the restrictions on visas. Biden has also pledged to increase the immigrant intake. But this policy will definitely increase the brain drain from India to America in lookout for higher paying jobs. Also increasing Indian American diaspora will increase Indian communities political influence and lead to a Pro-Indian behavior by the upcoming administrations. On immigration the best man depends on what we want more - domestic tech startup industry, remittances from America or diaspora’s political influence.

Party Does Matter

We always see the Presidential Candidate in terms of how they will be strategically better for India. But that’s not the case in America. American politics is way too different than we assume it to be. Both Republican and Democratic parties have a considerable amount of influence over the President and his administration’s workings. The President’s party should not only have control over the House of Representatives ( the congress ) but also the Senate if they want the administration to take big and powerful decisions. Trump’s Republican party has control of the Senate, thus, were able to pass Amy Coney Barett’s nomination. But they don’t have the House of Representatives. Which led to no second-stimulus package being passed during the pandemic. Likewise, Obama’s Democratic party didn’t have the Senate during their last 4 years of the Presidency due to which they were not able to pass various bills and nominations. Also, Obama’s party didn’t have the House majority for some time. History shows that the Republican party has been more Pro-Indian than the Democratic party. The liberal Democratic party has been hard on Kashmir, religious issues, India’s human rights and global standings. When India passed the CAA, five Indian American lawmakers, all Democrats, spoke out against the Bill and pushed a resolution in the Congress urging that the bill be removed. But the Republicans have not been critical of India in such a way. It was during the Republican Bush Jr Presidency that the India-US nuclear deal was signed. Many other trade deals and military deals were also signed.

We need to keep in mind that Kamala Harris’s Indian roots don’t make her Pro-Indian. She has been hard on India in many areas. Be it CAA, Article 370 and Kashmir. Kamala Harris uses her Black identity more because of its numerically suitability. A large minority of Americans are Black. It is politically convenient to use that identity. Recently she has started using Indian identity also due to the political weightage of the Indian-American electorate.

In The End


In the International arena, there are no permanent friends. You have to create advantageous situations by yourself in terms of geopolitics, trade, polity and diplomacy. No one will help you. In the end, be it Trump or Biden, it will more depend upon our standing in the global arena. India shouldn’t underestimate its political power, military standing, human resource, economic market and its values. No American administration can ignore us, or afford to harm or deteriorate its relations with India. What will be different will be the approach with which either Presidency will deal with us. But nature will have to be the same. India has seen the worst and the best of American governments. From embargos to the US-India nuclear deal. In current times, where America wants a new supply chain mechanism, trade alternative to China, and a military counter to the Red Dragon in Asia, both Democrats and Republicans will have to be Pro-India. This maintenance of American interests is indirectly in India’s interests. The Indian government has to drive up its resources, channels and influence to be prepared for any change in American behaviour. Which India is doing but has to be more aware and alert. As these times are the way to the stable. The answer to the question of who is India’s best man in the White House depends on what India weighs more in this turn of the century. China’s rise, Kashmir, Trade or Democratic international standings and order. In the end, a country's best man remains its own standings and position. But the addition of a Pro-Indian administration is always welcome.


By Harsh Suri

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