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Joe Biden, India and China: Will he Change Trump and Obama's Policy

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MG, an air warrior, a health freak, and Sportsman with wide experience.



When India became free in 1947, the Indian leadership led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was against imperialism. Nehru was also more inclined towards the socialist model exemplified by Russia. The net result was that he refused to join the anti-communist pacts floated by the USA. He maintained cordial relations with the USA but he was closer to Russia and Khrushchev realized the Soviets had an opportunity in India. The United States began to arm Pakistan, which had joined the American alliances. Nikita Khrushchev visited India and offered all the weapons required by the Indians and thus the MIG- 21 and the latest Soviet tanks and became part of the Indian arsenal.


Nehru had a big jolt in 1962 when he failed to anticipate the Chinese suppression of Tibet and the nibbling away of Indian territory. This resulted in a border war in 1962 between India and China and Nehru appealed to John Kennedy for help. Unfortunately, John Kennedy was assassinated and Nehru passed away. The new leader Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi thought it expedient to sign a military pact with the Soviet Union. This came in handy in the 1971 war when India liberated East Pakistan and broke Pakistan into two.

President Nixon wanted to intervene on behalf of Pakistan but the Soviets under Brezhnev made it clear they would not allow it. Nixon was later nonplussed when the entire Pakistan Army of nearly a hundred thousand soldiers and 200,000 irregular militia surrendered in East Pakistan and the state of Bangladesh came into being.

Bush and Obama

Relations between India and the United States meandered along till the second term of Bill Clinton when India carried out the nuclear tests. Clinton went along with Congress and sanctions were imposed against India. Clinton realized that India was a country with more than 1 billion people unlikely to be affected by sanctions. He tried to make amends. George Bush jr and Barack Obama carried out a sea-change in US policy and became closer to India. The advent of the right-wing Hindu leader Narendra Modi in 2014 brought about a perceptible change in India-US relations, as Modi was not only anti-communist but anti-China.

He forged closer relations with the USA and in particular with Barack Obama. He made history when he became the first US President to attend a military parade of another nation thousands of miles from home. Obama was the chief guest at the Indian Republic Day military parade on 26 January 2016.


Trump and India

Donald Trump who became president in 2016 was from the extreme right and he found a great affinity with another extreme rightist Narendra Modi. Trump forged greater and closer relations with India. In particular military relations grew and he brought India into the Indo- Pacific defense arrangement to counter China. Trump also visited India and never criticized Modi on any matter. On the contrary, he invited Modi to the US and had a special celebration of "Howdy Modi."

The Indian Prime Minister thought that Trump will win the election and he began to cement very close relations with Donald Trump. His daughter also visited India and everything was going fine with Mike Pompeo frequently visiting India for military cooperation against China.

As far as Modi is concerned, the unthinkable happened and Donald Trump lost the election and now Joe Biden is coming. It must be remembered that Joe Biden was a vice president when Barack Obama was President and was forging close ties with India and Modi. It is understood he was not in favor but he had very little say in policy matters, as is the practice in the United States

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President Biden having won the election is now planning to turn Donald Trump's policies upside down. For example, he is going to go back to the nuclear agreement with Iran and he has also indicated that he will be more open to China. He and his Vice President-designate Kamala Harris have criticized India's internal policies in Kashmir and other places. They have been talking about human rights but I am afraid both Biden and Kamala Harris are not aware of the ground reality of India.

India is a nation of 1.3 billion people and one of the largest nations in the world and it did not succumb to the American sanctions in 1998 when it exploded the nuclear bomb and is unlikely to listen to anything from both Biden and Harris.

Kamala Harris has little knowledge of power politics and her outburst against the Indian state is not justified but I had noted that Biden is a lot soberer. Maybe he has been briefed by the state department that in case you have to control China you cannot do it without India.

The Chinese were extremely worried about the close military relations between India and the USA under Trump and they were perhaps praying to God that Trump should be defeated. Joe Biden has already said that he will make an approach to China and try to bring it into the comity of nations. It really surprised me that a person who spent 50 years in public life should be talking like this. One hopes he is aware that China wants to replace the dollar with the Yen as the world currency. So Biden better watches out.


Last word

Everything is now in the Melting Pot and we have to wait and see what Joe Biden has in mind. I am afraid he was started on the wrong foot. There is a Tibetan government in exile in India and Donald Trump had appointed an American rep to attend to the Tibetan government. Will he continue this?

The situation is very fluid at the moment and the India- China border dispute is not going to be solved easily. Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo had made it clear that they were on India's side and various defense agreements made India a de facto partner and ally of the United States.

It will be interesting to learn how Joe Biden is going to deal with the situation in Asia. If his policy is to reach out to China then obviously he cannot have the same equation with India. The Chinese are extremely happy that Donald Trump has been defeated

The big nations play power games and even Russia is wary of the Chinese and they have indicated that they would like the old relationship with India to come back. It will be entirely up to Biden to decide what has to be done. I have a gut feeling that Biden is going to be soft on China. He and his VP Kamala Harris talking about Human rights in India makes me die laughing on a bed of nails.

India is a democracy and does not have any concentration camps or correction centers like in China and yet Joe Biden has not spoken anything about them. Kamala Harris similarly is also silent.

In my office in Singapore, I have a few Chinese working and they had celebrated the victory of Joe Biden. One may also see a less aggressive posture from him in the South China Sea but he may well remember that you cannot ride the tiger because If you want to ride the tiger you are eaten by the tiger. In this case, we can substitute the word tiger with the Dragon

I do remember that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in his "Discovery of India" had stated that a strong China is always an expansionist China Joe Biden will do well to remember this.

There is however a distinct possibility that Joe Biden will realize the danger of China and reverse course but we will have to wait and see how he goes about it.

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