Asia Society urges Joe Biden to expand scope of relationship with India

Washington: The incoming Biden administration has a real window to nurture a natural partnership with India, the Asia Society has said, urging the President-elect to expand the scope of the bilateral relationship to elevate health, digital, and climate cooperation.

Noting that Joe Biden has an opportunity to consolidate and accelerate the relationship by creating a substantive and broad partnership with India, which can undergird US policy in Asia and support the US, it also urges Biden to turn the page to a positive commercial agenda that emphasises reform and openness.

Among other recommendations for the Biden Administration include renewed US leadership and regional consultation in the face of China’s rise and emphasise shared values as the foundation of the relationship.

Authored by Anubhav Gupta, associate director with the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) in New York, the report says that travel will remain difficult in 2021 due to COVID-19, it would be useful for President Biden to visit India in 2022 and engage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at multilateral gatherings whenever possible.

“In 2013, Biden became the first vice president to visit India in three decades. Kamala Harris, the first South Asian American vice president, should follow in his footsteps,” Gupta wrote.

In the meantime, the administration should arrange early conversations and dialogues at the ministerial and working levels and fill key agency positions related to India expeditiously, unlike under President Donald Trump.

The Biden administration, the report said, should immediately create a dialogue track to engage India on COVID-19. As former Assistant US Trade Representative Mark Linscott suggests, the two governments would benefit from a regular dialogue mechanism on pandemic-related matters, including exchanging views and coordinating their positions on global rules regarding the trade in medical supplies, it said.

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Biden, a Democrat, is set to be inaugurated as the 46th US President on January 20.

Urging the Biden Administration to scrap the outgoing Trump administration’s immigration policies and move past the trade dispute, the report says that upon review of various worker visas, it should consider increasing the number of high-skilled visas as well as eliminating the limit on employment-based visas based on country.

In addition, as promised during the campaign, it should craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill that ensures that the United States remains welcoming to job creators and innovators and provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents.

Such a policy would benefit nearly 500,000 Indians who are currently residing in the United States illegally and would be welcomed by the Indian government, the Indian American community, as well as the American business community, it said.

The Asia Society in its report said that ultimately, India will want to see the United States marshal a more coordinated diplomatic effort and a whole-of-government approach to China.

To earn India’s continued support with regard to China, Washington may need to stand up for allies and partners in the face of Chinese bullying, and not just in cases relevant to India; continue to apply economic pressure on Beijing to reform its economy toward fair market principles.

It also urges the US to return to a visible, leadership role in regional and multilateral organisations when it comes to the maintenance of regional peace and security, the protection of the global commons, and the advancement of shared values; increase investment in the IDFC to enhance global infrastructure development projects endorsed by the Blue Dot Network to raise regional standards for infrastructure and development and put pressure on China’s Belt and Road Initiative; and redouble research and investments in technology to undermine China’s advantages in that area.

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Noting that keeping India apprised of any changes in US policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan will be critical, the report says that while the Biden administration must be prepared for the likely eventuality of another India-Pakistan crisis, it would be wise to try to reduce that possibility by pressuring Islamabad in bilateral and multilateral talks to clamp down on cross-border terrorism into India.

The Asia Society said that it will be a tightrope walk, but the Biden administration should not hesitate to voice support for human rights, democratic institutions, and the rule of law as it deals with any of its partners, including India.


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