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PM Modi congratulates US President-elect Joe Biden over the phone, affirms importance of ties

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had his 1st telephonic conversation with the US President-elect Joe Biden Tuesday night. PM Modi congratulated Biden over his win in the election. The two leaders discussed a range of issues of common concern; covid 19 pandemic, climate change and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, as per a tweet shared by the PM.

The first telephonic conversation between PM Modi and US President-elect Joe Biden assumes a lot of significance in the backdrop of concerns regarding the probable fate of India-US relations under the leadership of Biden.

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The concern largely emanates from the fact that in Biden’s campaign agenda for Muslim Americans, the NRC (National Register of Citizens) issue and the Jammu and Kashmir issue figured  prominently. But in reality, there is little reason to believe that the US line on Kashmir will drastically change under the new leadership.

One has to distinguish poll time rhetoric from what happens on the ground. In mounting an election campaign pitted against Trump’s supposed anti-immigration, anti –Muslim agenda, the democrats obviously had to project Biden as someone espousing causes of Muslims all over the world. But as the President of a major superpower that is grappling with so many issues all together – political instability, economic issues, issues with China as well as the Coronavirus pandemic, Biden is most likely to concentrate on domestic issues and not really interfere in the internal matters of a friendly country like India.

Having said that, if one looks at Joe Biden’s track record, he has been quite pro India as well as Modi government. When he was the Vice-President during Barack Obama’s tenure, he was infact instrumental in shaping up the bonhomie between PM Modi and Obama back then.

As far as China is concerned, US position under Joe Biden is unlikely to change much. Though of course temperament wise, he is not as aggressive as Donald Trump and someone like him would probably be more flexible in terms of negotiations with China, he has expressed his acute displeasure with the Chinese regime in very clear terms. Infact, during the Democratic primaries in February, Biden had referred to Chinese President “Xi Jinping” as a thug and said that Beijing had to “play by the rules”.

With respect to immigration, his position is of course hugely different from Trump, especially with regard to Muslim migrants. But at the same time, his flexible position on immigration is also a positive development for Indian nationals working in the US or wanting to work in the US. With regard to the economic side of India-US relations, Joe Biden’s leadership can be a good sign as he would be a lot more accommodating than Trump when it comes to India’s business interests, in all probability. Because let’s not forget that Trump had taken some really tough and rather nasty decisions that hurt Indian businesses. He had announced the exclusion of India from the GST (Generalized System of Trade Preferences) programme. The Trump administration had also imposed tariffs on Indian steel and aluminum to which India had retaliated with its own set of tariffs.

So while, it’s certainly a ‘wait and watch of situation, there is no reason really to think that Joe Biden becoming the President of US would imply a drastic change of status quo as far as India is concerned.

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