Is Biden Trustworthy for India?
Amidst the worst of the Pandemics in India when it needs help and support from any reasonable State of the world on the health issues, US is showing its dark colour of being unpredictable ‘friend’. India is grappling with the worst possible Covid with daily cases ranging >35 million per day and the death figures exceeding 2500 per day. It urgently needs to vaccinate the majority of its 1.38 billion population. However, for the vaccination, India urgently needs the raw materials for the vaccines and Joe Biden denied it. By this denial, Biden is not only denying India the urgently required vaccination but also the other nations of the world whom India is exporting vaccine on humanitarian grounds. Biden forgot that when US needed Hydrochloroquin, Paracetamol the last year, India supplied the same for strategic and trusted friend USA. Joe Biden and his administration forgot that India supplied the drug denying its own populace at the Covid risk for which PM Modi was severely criticized by the opposition politicians. However, Biden’s response to India’s urgent needs is in sharp contrast to Indian response. It is condemnable.
The refusal to India was on the pretext of ‘US first’ on the Covid issue. The export of the raw materials does not hamper US production of the vaccines. It is owing to a ridiculous US Covid war-time Defence Production Act (DPA) that leaves US companies with no option but to give priority to the production of COVID-19 vaccines and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for domestic production. It does not take much for the Biden Administration to accord a limited waver but that warmth for India is missing. It may be appropriate to examine the reasons.
Change in the US administration this year was very stormy with unprecedented developments. An almost sure predictable win of Trump was reversed by the Corona as well as the Black movements that was kept alive, on fire, by Biden led Democrats. Whatever hopes of Trump was left, that were allegedly ‘stolen’ by the Blacks and the Coloured citizen of US through electoral frauds of postal ballots. It was not surprising that the above events led to the storming of the Capitol Hill by the Trump supporters. Although all these were the internal matters of US and that all democracies in world undergo, it had some uncertainties in store for India.
In spite of Trump being somewhat unpredictable, the strategic and head of State relations with India were exemplary. Biden-Harris has been viewed with mixed expectations for India. Biden was a suspect friend of India with his “Hilal-e-Pakistan” honour by India’s foe in its neighborhood. On the Other hand, Kamala has been a known supporter of Kashmiri terrorist groups and the Maoists in India. There were also some advocates of politics and international affairs suggesting that Kamala may prove to be friendly to India. This narrative was somewhat strengthened with many executives of Indian origin finding place in the Biden administration. However, the new administration approach towards India has been a flip-flop all through. At one hand, the US seeks Indian participation in the strategic alliances on the Indo-Pacific on the other, they leave no opportunity to embarrass India and that too, on wrong issues. It was at the end of March this year that US govt condemned the Indian Govt for curbs on the vibrant Indian media where any opponent of Modi govt has freedom to criticize including opposition leaders and media personnel. Yet, Biden administration accused Modi govt of media censorship. In the entire history of independent India, if there is a govt which is being criticized by media for each and any actions, it is under Modi. As if that was not enough to embarrass India, they violated the Indian Maritime boundary in Indian ocean on the pretext of UNCLOS, to which they are not the signatory. Even more damning was the Pentagon statement on the incident. This surely did not go well with the Indian govt and the US ambassador was summoned by the Min External Affairs and rebutted in no uncertain terms. Biden will have to realise that it is not the India that his administration treated during his being VP. He has to mend his ways to deal with New India.
Clearly, the internal events within US has apparently changed the dynamics of warm relations New Delhi had with the White House during Trump’s time. Biden must realise that foreign relations, esp with strategic partners don’t change with the change in the govt or domestic/internal politics. Surely, he will be having own priorities in the international relations. It is the time when US needs India more than India needs US for the sought after power game. India does not stand for global dominance but US dominance is today seriously being challenged by the only other aspiring superpower, the Chinese. There is only one way in which US can keep a hook on China…the Naval Power but there has been substantial shift in the naval power…esp in the numbers. Today China is far superior to the US in the number game. Undoubtedly, US will need the strength of ‘QUAD’ to prevail upon China in their own backyard…the possible theatre of the next conflict.
The present US approach to India is doesn’t augur well for a warm relation esp in strategic terms. The US indifference to the humanitarian needs of India in the testing times of the worst pandemic, shows bankruptcy among the US think tanks. India has significant resilience among its professionals and population to withstand the challenges but the US has certainly lost at an excellent opportunity to win the Indian trust.
At the time the magazine was going for publication, it is learnt that US administration has realized their folly and cleared the sale of the raw materials required for augmenting and ramping-up the vaccine manufacture in India. Joe Biden has apparently gone a step further in offering humanitarian help…of supplying the precious Oxygen Concentrator and the Ventilators for ICU support. If the editor has heard correctly, Biden has also committed to send the American Field Ambulance Unit to India to combat the pandemic. This is a step that should have been taken in the first place without casting any shadows in the relationship. Whether this approach is sustained in future too or Biden administration creates another bitterness in the coming months and years, remains to be seen…much like an unpredictable US of the past.