EXCLUSIVE: Trump versus Biden — President of USISPF explains how the administrations will differ in their approach to India

EXCLUSIVE: Trump versus Biden — President of USISPF explains how the administrations will differ in their approach to India
Democratic nominee in the US Presidential Election 2020, Joe BidenBCCL

  • If Joe Biden wins the 2020 US Presidential Election, it could mean issues like Kashmir cropping up as ‘irritants’ between India and the US.
  • While the Trump administration is more ‘transactional’, the Biden administration is likely to be more ‘multilateral’ according to Mukesh Aghi — the President and CEO of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF).
  • Speaking at the Business Insider Global Trends Festival 2020, Aghi added that Biden’s presidency could also start a new chapter for the QUAD, turning it from a defence alliance to an economic one.
The race of the US Presidential Election between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and incumbent President Trump is heating up will the polls underway. While Biden is leading in the national polls, as Hillary Clinton did in 2016, the US' eight swing states hold the power to drag the election in any direction.

While Indian Americans may want Biden to win, it could mean issues that were ignored till now — like Kashmir — becoming an ‘irritant’ between the two countries.

EXCLUSIVE: Trump versus Biden — President of USISPF explains how the administrations will differ in their approach to India
Presidential preference among Indian Americans for the 2020 US Presidential ElectionIAAS2020/BI India

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“They will question religious freedom. They will question human rights. They will question what’s happening in Kashmir and some of the other issues that have been ignored by the Trump administration,” Mukesh Aghi, the President and CEO of USISPF, told Business Insider during the Global Trends Festival 2020.

On the flip side, it could also mean a new era for the QUAD alliance between the US, Australia, India and Japan. According to Aghi, Biden’s presidency holds the potential to turn the alliance from one of defence, to one that is economic in nature.

Meanwhile the US-India relations aren’t a priority for Indian Americans. In a Carnegie and YouGov survey, when asked what their primary issues were when considering who to vote for — US-India relations ranked second to last.

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EXCLUSIVE: Trump versus Biden — President of USISPF explains how the administrations will differ in their approach to India
Top priorities for Indian American votes in the 2020 US Presidential ElectionIAAS2020/BI India

Aghi believes the question that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be asking is whether Biden coming at the helm will value India as much as the Trump administration. “They will have a much more structured approach when dealing with India,” he said.

The Trump and Biden administrations will be different from each other
If Biden returns to the White House, there will be a considerable shift in policy. “With the Trump administration, the power is in the White House. All decisions come through the President himself,” said Aghi. According to him, the decisions made are more ‘transactional’ under the Trump administration.

However, if Biden comes to power, his approach is likely to be more ‘multilateral’.
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The Democratic nominee has vowed to double down on clean energy and electric vehicles. More importantly, he plans on making the US a signatory of the Paris Agreement again — which could be a boon for India.

US signing the Paris Climate Agreement works in India’s favour
The US is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. And, India is the frequent victim of monsoon rains that have become more erratic and violent as climate change worsens.

EXCLUSIVE: Trump versus Biden — President of USISPF explains how the administrations will differ in their approach to India
Top 5 producers of greenhouse emissions around the worldEDGAR 2019 report/BI India

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If the US doesn’t reduce its emissions, it would jeopardise the goal of keeping global warming under control not just for India but countries across the globe. As a part of the Paris Agreement, the US had promised to reduce its emission by 26% before 2025 as compared to 2005.

Signing the agreement will also bring the country back under the umbrella of mobilising funds for preventing climate change. Under the agreement, developed countries like the US are obligated to contribute at least $100 billion every year in ‘climate finance’ for developing countries.

QUAD could become more than just a defence alliance
The friendship between the four QUAD countries — the US, India, Japan, and Australia — has only strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve met more often and have continued to align themselves along common interests, like the freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific — which includes the South China Sea.

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Although never directly addressed, the QUAD provides a necessary balance to China’s power in the Asian region, and they’re slowly growing beyond being merely a defence alliance.

For instance, in Huawei’s case, all the countries exercised more scrutiny when it came to deploying 5G using the Chinese company’s technology even though the level of noise around it varied from geography to geography.


“It makes natural sense to move from a geopolitical defence partnership into a technological partnership and then into an economic partnership,” Aghi told Business Insider. He even suggested the potential for a vertical FDA within the four countries to create an open economic zone.
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With 16 days to go for the 2020 US Presidential Election, Biden may be leading the polls, but the jury is still out on whether Trump will defy the odds. Whoever comes to power, there’s a general consensus around the fact that both administrations will be very different from each other.

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