Why Biden-Harris are disastrous for India

Biden, Kamala Harris pose for photo together amid 2020 speculation | TheHill
[Joe Biden and Kamala Harris]

The fun thing about an American presidential elections is its slam bang nature where the candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties and the media, lining up on either side, go at each other, hammer and tongs, in unending and enjoyable bouts of name calling and verbal slug fests that build up to a train wreck with the results Nov 3 providing relief.

The special interest this year relates to Donald Trump seeking reelection in a year when everything that can go wrong has gone wrong or is going wrong in the US, not little because of the actions of the President himself. The economy has plummeted following the pandemic, lives and livelihoods in the millions are lost — at last count over 30 million are out of work and, in the wake of the Minneapolis policeman’s knee on the neck death of a black man, race relations are on the boil and riots and social unrest prevail in many American cities.

The start point was the corona. Beginning in January this year when the first instances of the corona virus were evidenced in that country to now, six months later, when it has killed 165,000 with the death rate rising at the rate of an American succumbing every 80 seconds, Trump has been in absolute denial. He has denied the essential nature of the virus, the global pandemic it has caused, and the manner of its spread. In the face of hard irrefutable contrary data and reality, he has stuck pigheadedly to his line that (1) all’s well, (2) the US is faring better than every other country in the world, (3) testing for the virus is the reason why the numbers of the afflicted are so high, and (4) things like masks, social distancing, and lock downs recommended by medical professionals to contain the spread, are unwanted restraints on the economy and delay the return of normalcy.

His solutions for the slumping US economy are bad enough — increasing tariffs, shutting down trade, cutting social welfare benefits for the needy and unemployed and cutting taxes on the wealthy and, for the pandemic, are wackier still even by the vaudeville standard of his presidency. Trump has recommended as antidote that (i) doing nothing and people going about their lives normally will lead to the virus, somehow, magically, “miraculously” “disappearing”, (ii) people ingest hydroxychloroquine — a drug to tackle other maladies (such as malaria) — labelled by Trump as “gift of God” — that appalled doctors warned, far from alleviating danger, would actually do serious harm, and which is where India stepped briefly into the Trumpian circus lights owing to his personal call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ship as much of this drug to America as India has stocks of, and to top it all (iii) “inject” detergent — yea, the stuff you clean toilets with — into the human body to “kill the virus”! Sure, it will kill the virus as also the person so treated. He even mused to the Press that exposing the virus to light — somehow introduced inside the bodies of corona-infected patients could be a cure! Even as Trump thus holds forth, his medical advisers sit stony-faced in the press room trying desperately not to chortle in the President’s face — the situation being too serious to even laugh at nonsense.

So, why is the unbearably impulsive and mercurial Trump with a mental disorder, as his niece and professional psychologist, Mary Trump, alleges in her book, better for India than the more mainstream and old world Joe Biden and his part-Indian running mate, Kamala Harris?

(The Tamil brahmin half of the aspirant to US Vice President’s post is what the media here is making much of as if she is some long lost daughter of Chennai who has little else in mind than doing good for that city and India! Ms. Harris’ mother, Shyamala, apparently left for the US to study endocrinology at UC, Berkeley, in the 1960s where she met her husband and Kamala’s father, Donald Harris — a fellow foreign student from Jamaica, now professor of economics at Stanford University. Clearly, Ms. Harris doesn’t lack for intellect or, as she has displayed throughout her career, political moxie compared to her Republican counterpart, the stiff and humourless Mike Pence, who calls his wife “Mother”! The Delhi effect will be for Kamala’s maternal uncle, Dr G. Balachandran, for many years the nonproliferation mainstay at IDSA, to be thrust into the limelight.)

Since late 2018, Trump has more reasonably targeted China for carrying on with unbalanced and unfair trade, for stealing US secrets and intellectual property rights and, most recently, and for deliberately causing a pandemic by allowing what he calls the ‘China virus’ — corona virus by another name, to spread to all over the world from its locus genesis in the city of Wuhan. He has shutdown Chinese investments in the high technology sectors in Silicon valley and elsewhere, stopped the entry of Chinese citizens into the US, threatened to sanction particular members of the Chinese nomenklatura, been more aggressive in showing flag in support of its Asian partners and allies in the East Sea and the South China Sea by deploying US aircraft carrier task groups and smaller naval flotillas on freedom of navigation patrols, transferred a bunch of advanced military hardware to Taiwan, and led a ruckus over Beijing’s move to, in effect, absorb Hong Kong, which is violative of its treaty obligations to the United Kingdom. By thus politically and militarily pressing China, restricting Chinese imports into America, and slowing down its economy, US distracts Beijing and indirectly advantages India.

Trump did all this unilaterally with spur-of-moment decisions — initiatives that the US State Department opposed but could do nothing to stop. From India’s point of view it was an immeasurably good thing to happen because these various streams of Trump’s anti-China policy came together and peaked around the time Beijing had begun annexing Indian territory in eastern Ladakh earlier this summer. The unintended but beneficial consequence for India was that it put the brakes on whatever plans the Xi Jinping-chaired Central Military Commission may have originally tasked the People’s Liberation Army with achieving. Beijing realized that it had opened too many fronts at the same time, and by at least notionally negotiating with the Modi government put off more difficult choices. All the while though, Beijing made it plain that Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar’s June 19 demand for restoration of status quo ante was, well, for the birds, and that it would keep what it has occupied.

Xi’s amor propre required that China respond substantively if not in equally harsh measure to the US, afraid that pushing the Trump Administration too far would permanently damage its interests in the US, which it can’t afford to happen. But there’s a ratcheting up of the action-reaction chain, which again assists India’s cause. However, should Biden-Harris get voted to power — which I predicted will happen come November in a June 4 post (“The end of Trump”), the US will revert to its longstanding policy of mutual accommodation with China that will entail easing the pressure, especially in the contested maritime domain in Asia and vis a vis the Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia extending to the Gulf and West Asia. That was, after all, what the US’ China policy during the Obama years was when Biden was Vice President. Recall Obama and Xi agreeing on a two-power condominium — G-2 to rule the world? This will not be good for India.

Far worse, the US policy establishment, reviled as the “deep state” by Trump and his appointees, will get the prospective Biden policy back on its nuclear nonproliferation hinge, and resume its focus of the last 45-odd years of getting India to “cap, freeze, rollback” its nuclear weapons programme. Trump, on his part, dismantled the international nuclear order by ending the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT-II) with Russia on the reasonable ground that without China in it such an accord makes little sense, ditching the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty in Europe, and junking the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran — any of which events could have been used by a strong-minded Indian government to initiate nuclear testing to acquire proven and tested high yield thermonuclear weapons. In the event, Modi will be arm-twisted into getting India back on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty track in the disarmament negotiations in Geneva, with the goal of compelling the Indian government to renounce all future nuclear testing — the foundation of the deleterious 2008 civil nuclear cooperation deal with the US that Jaishankar, as Joint Secretary (Americas), had negotiated with Washington.

In parallel, the old US policy of maintaining the power balance in South Asia will be resumed vigorously by Biden. It had wavered a bit during the Trump tenure owing to Modi’s making an impression on the US President that culminated in his grand reception in Delhi in January this year. All that goodwill, if not zeroed out, then the tenor of the bilateral relationship will be recalibrated. What this will mean in practice is that Pakistan will once again be able to rely on both China and the US to actively help it to square off against India. And, of course, the Democratic party and Biden-Harris in particular will be far more inclined to collar India on the Kashmir, human rights abuses, and similar issues.

The slight positives with Biden in will be in two areas: the pressure on India to buy the old and counterproductive Lockheed F-16 combat aircraft dressed up as F-21 that Trump was pushing on Modi, will recede. And the old H1B visa regime much liked by Indian IT firms sending off armies of software techies to America to do jobs at cut rate salaries, and that Modi tried his damndest to convince Trump to go easy on and failed, may return. It will open up the gates for Indian professionals to go more easily to the US, to augment their earnings by getting their spouses to work on the H-4 visa that Trump had closed down, and to try and convert their H1B status to ‘green card’ and permanent residency. Back home. it will consolidate the support of this section of the aspiring Indian middle class behind Modi by the time the 2024 general elections roll around.

On balance, it is obvious India’s interests are better served by the Republican Administration under Trump, which is ideologically and viscerally at odds with Communist China than by the Biden-Harris combo eager to regain the normal as Beijing sees it. All right thinking Indians must hope Trump returns to power even if that mightily screws up the internal situation in that country and roils the American society. But that’s for Americans to worry about.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Central Asia, China, China military, Decision-making, Geopolitics, geopolitics/geostrategy, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Iran and West Asia, Islamic countries, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Russia, russian military, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Tibet, United States, US., Weapons, West Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Why Biden-Harris are disastrous for India

  1. Kunal Singh says:

    Ofcourse they r disastrous ☺️. I was listening her speech on Kashmir. She was more harsh than separatists.

  2. Edelbert Kmenlang Badwar says:

    Nothing shows better the slave mentality of most Indians,than the great tom-tomming of Kamala Harris’s “Indian” lineage in our country.Seventy years after independence we still have a craze for everything Western.It shows in our arms imports as well.Also the national euphoria everytime some nondescript Bollywood film gets an Oscar nomination.As far as India is concerned only the policies of the Democratic party matter not Kamala’ s lineage.For Indians it seems West is the best.The British may have left our country but they still colonize our minds.

  3. Sankar says:

    I do not share the views espoused here. Take for example “at least notionally negotiating with the Modi government put off more difficult choices”. “Notionally” does not carry any weight whatsoever. According to the public domain news, in my reading, China has bluntly sent the message to the Indian emissary ‘Mishra’ to just get lost – there is a spin here to turn it on as “notionally negotiating”. China is simply buying its time to consolidate its hold on the recently annexed territory in Ladakh which falls under Indian sovereignty from time immemorial.
    In any event, once in power, Biden and Harris, if elected, will start singing a different tune. India is a very big power in the world stage and the nation does not need any other state’s support to defend Kashmir or Ladakh. Unfortunately, the present Indian political leadership, in contrast to the days of Indira Gandhi, has been capitulating all along, in particular, Modi is bending backward to please China. Remember once Modi was banned to get the US visa!

    • lonewolfvietcongstriker says:

      is that why she stopped Thermonuclear testing after 1974 and she was too brave to commit a genocide of the majority community of this country in the name of Secualrism ?? Wanna know why she was shivering in her high heels ???

      Coz Henry Kissinger warned her that chilean president has been assassinated, she would be too, thats why she stopped it.

      And if she was such a decisive leader why she couldn’t deal with petty issues like Abrogation of article 370 and left it for MODI to do her job 45 years too late

  4. V.Ganesh says:

    India needs more of Donald J. Trump, he’s allowing India to buy armed UAVs like the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper [Predator B] and General Atomics MQ-9 Sea Guardian drones. At least for the sake of making the Indian Armed Forces strong by getting previously denied sophisticated and lethal US military hardware, Donald J. Trump should become POTUS 46, nevermind the MOD’s negative import list.

  5. V.Ganesh says:

    India doesn’t need to worry about Creepy Joe Biden [history of inappropriate behaviour towards women] and Kamala Harris. They’re doomed to lose now that like in 2016, Russia is back to interfering in the US presidential election which saw Donald Trump become POTUS 45. So, Donald Trump becoming POTUS 46 is inevitable irrespective of Chinese and Iranian interference in the 2020 US presidential election. The Chinese and Iranians are nothing compared to the Russians.

  6. Sohamg says:

    Many experts are either arguing that it is too early to decide the fate of the U.S. elections or saying that Trump will be re-elected.

  7. Tony says:

    Trump is lame duck and gone , think about hitler after russian fiasco , he wont win primarily because of women vote as most women didnt voted last time assuming hilliary will win and white working class which switched loyalty last time to Trump is immensely suffering with china virus and trumps perceived betrayal on mexican and third world immigration and wont be inclined to go out and vote , As far as Kumallah harris is concerned she is part of most of second generation indian americans that go overboard to prove their wokness and more anti hindu and anti indian than sepoys of company. Also Nepal& dhaka will be faster out of Indian orbit as pompeo wont be around to scare CCP.

    • lonewolfvietcongstriker says:

      @Tony in that case, what india has seen and the purpose for modi’s visit was to come to a moment of truth that UNCLE SAM won’t be there to help them and neither is this country their brothel for their american soldiers

  8. Roy says:

    The portrait of Trump in this article is parroted from CNN and BBC, New York Times and Washington Post. There are alternate news sources which offer a different view of Trump. One America News Network (OANN) and Fox News Network, the most popular news channel in the US, offer an alternate view of Trump

    • You are right about my impressions of Trump being derived from CNN, BBC NYT, WP — four of the most reputable western media outlets. How else can someone in India, say, credibly get news about America? From Fox News? Actually, I watch it too, but more for entertainment value (refer the 1st para of my post).

    • lonewolfvietcongstriker says:

      @Roy you are telling this to a man who has been the NSAB member as well as India’s Nuclear Doctrine Drafting Committee Member ??? Are you nuts or what ???

  9. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    HCQ is neither wacky nor can it be waived off as “a drug to tackle other maladies (such as malaria)”. There are enough resources and critiques available in open source speaking for HCQ. On the contrary the very fact that HCQ is sought to be downplayed by all manner of governments and government controlled media, clearly suggests that all these governments are hiding more than they are revealing.

    I don’t believe we as a country (and particularly our economy) will not get hurt by Democrats any more than what the Republicans have not already done. The imperialism of Pax Americana is not build on partisan US politics. Instead it is based on a bipartisan support for exploiting other countries, nearly always with the co-option of expats from these exploited countries and the sickly militaries that these countries foster.

    Given that, what also holds true (with me at least) is that, it is hard to take Trump seriously. On balance, however he is still appears a better bet for the long term prospects of USA. He has been trying hard to strike a balance with the leftists policies of PPP and MMT. But better future prospects for US is something I could not care any less, so.

  10. ranjith says:

    India should present a choice to Bide/Harris. Either back us like China backs Pakistan or get lost.
    Trying to appease the Democrats will not work. If we don’t do this explicitly, they will continue their balancing acts with Pakistan/China. We also should pray to god for an accidental shooting incident between China/US in the South China Sea.

  11. Arihant says:

    Sir in your opinion do you think it is worth for India to take back POK and the rest of our territory from Pak? Or better to have the current border as an international border? Wouldn’t taking back territory be strategically beneficial as it would give India access to Afghanistan and central Asia and also break the “string of pearls” China is trying to build? And do we have what it takes to take our territory back from pak?

    • Reclaiming PoK will, in fact, confer the advantages you mention and some others as well. Can the Indian military take PoK? Yes, with fully concentrated effort. But this could trip the nuclear wire and, considering what is at stake, China will get involved. Best therefore to leave PoK to Pakistan and formalize the border on the LoC. It will leave something for Pakistan and, as I have argued, make it more amenable to the type of permanent solution that Pervez Musharraf almost succeeded in convincing Manmohan Singh about.

  12. Sankar says:

    Further to my previous post, how does the gist of this column as captured in the title :
    “Why Biden-Harris are disastrous for India” stand now in the light of the latest news:
    “Biden says India-US share special bond, highlights Trump adm ..”
    In particular, Biden “highlights Trump admin’s ‘harmful’ action on H1B visa”.
    Read more at:

    • Changes nothing. Do re-read my comments on the H1B visa issue and Biden’s views, which I anticipated.

      • Sankar says:

        A propos H1B visa, to my reading Biden is far more conducive to prospective Indian immigrants to the US than Trump, if one goes by their publicly stated policy at present. Here is a link to Biden’s position on India’s relationship vis-a-vis Pak and China:
        “Joe Biden offers full-throated support to India against China, Pakistan” –
        “Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, will work with India in the Indo-Pacific to ensure no country, including China, “is able to threaten its neighbours with impunity” and will have “no tolerance” for cross-border terrorism in South Asia, if elected president, his campaign said in an expansive agenda released Friday for bilateral relations with India and the welfare of Indian Americans.
        A Biden administration also will place a “high priority” on bolstering ties with India, continue to strengthen India’s defence capabilities and bring the United States back into the Paris climate to work with India again to combat climate change, according to the agenda.”
        So I do not see how “the old US policy of maintaining the power balance in South Asia will be resumed vigorously by Biden”. We do not know what position the Democrats (Biden&Co) would have taken on the recent Chinese aggression in Ladakh if they were in power. One must not forget that Trump had openly expressed to be geared for his “mediating role” on Kashmir with Imran Khan that prompted Delhi to tweak with Art370 and split J&K with great haste coming to know Trump’s plan. Again in the Kargil war Clinton (Democrat) put his foot down on Pak to vacate when their incursion came out in the picture and Pak could not bolster their military.
        So how can the Democrats be judged as less supportive of India than the Republicans? It is yet to be seen that Modi would sign NPT under US pressure although I am losing confidence on him day by day now since Galwan.

      • Just wait and see.

    • lonewolfvietcongstriker says:

      @Sankar “So how can the Democrats be judged as less supportive of India than the Republicans?”

      The answer is neither, that is what Dr. Karnad ji always tries to make indians understand, india as a nation has always relied on some foreign power to help them, its not the case and we have all the wherewithal to make our own indigenous Military Industrial Complex on our own with the help of indian private sector and if this happens, we would be self-sufficient and then we would generate revenue and jobs and other stuff at home without any outside support.

      This would lead to india being on the verge of copying the economic model of USA

      • Sankar says:

        My write-up was meant to address the implication of the title “Why Biden-Harris are disastrous for India” and also the view at the end “it is obvious India’s interests are better served by the Republican Administration under Trump … with Communist China than by the Biden-Harris combo eager to regain the normal as Beijing sees it”.
        I am not clear on how to interpret that India has “all the wherewithal” to set up its own Military Industrial Complex to become “self-sufficient”. Self-sufficiency in what – military hardware through manufacturing (Make in India)?

  13. Sankar says:

    @Karnad – … “Yes” ..
    My goodness!

  14. Debanjan Banerjee says:

    Thanks for another wonderful article. Do you think Pakistan is right in it’s current relationship problems with Saudi Arabia? What do you think could be the motivation here for Pakistan to distance itself from Saudi at this juncture.

  15. devraj says:

    Sir.are agni v missiles produced in good numbers and can be deployed on short notice

  16. Alexander says:

    Agree with your points on China! However, Trump’s inaction and indirect support of Modi’s polarizing policies and religious freedom violations are even more disastrous for the nation. Biden is likely to tighten Modi’s strings on the issues of religious freedom, minorities, and human rights, which may be good for the nation in the long run.

  17. Kirit Porecha says:

    The Joe Biden campaign has recently taken campaign contributions from organizations which are promoted by Ghulam Nabi Fai, Lord Nazir, Munir Akram, etc. and the pakistani diaspora. Per the quid pro quo anti-India speeches were promptly made by Biden. Primary demands are 1) remove Trump’s muslim ban, 2) support UN resolutions & engage in kashmir mediation 3) Nullify withdrawl of Articles 370 and 35A and cancel CAA.

    Hyphenation with India will be restarted and supply of arms will be commenced. Also a blind eye and ear will be turned towards Pakistan’s terrorism, suppression of minorities, blasphemy laws, etc. Ms. Harris comes in to ensure 90 % of the black vote is pucca for the democrats. The rant about suppression of religious freedoms in BJP ruled India is being spooled while indian-origin congressmen and senators in the US have to become christian so that they may avoid being at the bottom of the totem pole and therefore just, ‘water boys’. These people hurt India the most. Tulsi Gabbard is the exception and is the only India supporter amongst indian-origin politicians.

    Biden or Trump will both likely make peace with China. Trump’s complete hostility presently seems to be a campaign strategy. But he will negotiate with more toughness than Biden because of the incalculable damage suffered by America in terms of human lives and livelihoods, economy activity, spying, stealing, copying. Many American companies are Chinese owned and American businesses supply chains are in China. They cannot make excessive profits without sourcing from China and so they are pressurising the govt. China has enough to give to make the US take the bait. Even countries in Western Europe, say Germany, don’t do much business in nearby previous soviet bloc countries because though far away China is much much cheaper. That is the Chinese stranglehold on world economies.

    India should join the Quad because India should have powerful friends. The advantage of the Quad is that the 4 countries are powerful economically with India being the weakest in the group on a per capita basis. Going west Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel are US allies. Then we have Europe (Russia not included). The Quad is not intended to be a military alliance but an intelligence sharing arrangement and could become a trade alliance involving other SEA countries as well. This will be a powerful deterrant to discipline and check China because the European economies are more or less aligned with the US as the US is a huge import/export market (automobiles, machinery, technology, defense, etc.). Appeasement will not work with China because China is ruled by military types. Their philosophy is to invent false grievances and claim/occupy other countries’ territories to show who is stronger. This ‘victory’ feeds their ego and is repeated. Militarily the US is averse to enter into a conflict with China but instead prefers to sell arms to those countries threatened by China, including Taiwan, to protect themselves. Chinese have very carefully studied the strengths and weaknesses of the US and have developed and is further developing a very powerful military.

    H-1B visas for Indian professionals expectedly will be enhanced and liberalized under Biden. But even Trump realizes the value of IT professionals. H-1B visas are suspended by Trump until December 31 but will be continued if the pressure on him relents. Instead a deal can be negotiated such that IT and other sectors workshare can be substantially increased in India and so that more Indian professionals can work for better salaries and benefits within India. They will spend their money in India. The impact of this kind of deal would be better for India’s GDP and also allow Americans to hold on to their jobs in the US. This is a political necessity in the US. Almost every IT and engineering co. in the US has operations in India which hire 5~10 times more personnel than in a similar capacity in the US. As it is the workshare is deemed a round the clock operation with excellent understanding and communications between the two countries and getting more business within India will be a win-win for both countries.

    So even though Trump is transactional and has many faults, at least for India he is acceptable. He has good chemistry with PM Modi and hopefully in a second term the ties could become stronger. Also hope he commits fewer gaffes, corrects the impression that he is ‘slipping’ and incompetent by governing smartly. He has business interests in India also. India needs a strong friend for its security because pressure will come from all sides. India has to manage its northeast well so that Bengal and Kerala type situations do not develop.

  18. devraj says:

    Situation: If China destroyed Kailash Mansarovar what will India do, or if it threatens to do so to black mail India?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.