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What do Biden's win and Trump's loss mean for India and South Asia?

TOP NEWS-ENG-09-10-2020

In a bizarre election, worthy of the best and the worst, Joe Biden won more votes and electoral votes than Donald Trump to be home and dry. It's not exactly an electoral victory as yet, as Trump has refused to recognize the election and is threatening to fight it in the courts. Few give him much of a chance there, but while most think that the Trump era is over, the mess he has created will linger for a while. 

If voting out a President is a good practice, the post election confusion is not so good. Biden has won as per consensus but Trump is not far behind. That is a fact many are in denial about. Trump won almost 50%. So did Biden. The two are separated by a max of 2% of popular votes. If that is the case, then little has changed in the US in terms of public response. 

But more people voted than ever before, making this battle special. This means that more Democrats turned out to vote trying not to replay what happened to Hillary Clinton who also got a few more votes but lost in the Electoral College. The matter was ultimately decided by the courts. This is why a harder look at the many "non-democratic" factors in electoral democracies needs to be taken. 

US elections and South Asia   

There was a lot of interest in the US elections particularly in India, because Kamala Harris was Biden’s running mate. Her mother was Indian and her father from the Caribbean so India adopted her as one of its own. Indian media had given a lot of coverage to this. 

Yet the fact is, India was a major beneficiary during the Trump regime even if all it got from the US were only strategic assets. And those were in relation to China. Trump's hyperbole suited Indian street emotions which BJP has used quite extensively against China. The "America first" slogan is close to "India first" policy of the BJP.  

It's not an inclusive slogan for the region or even internally. "Hindus first" is a natural extension of that belief and slogan. Spiritually, India and Trump's US were closer but that era has ended. India will now have to look at a new world where nobody comes first - at least slogan wise.

Biden is also not a gung-ho President who will play the democratic card with gusto. That means that the US will be more accommodating of conflict resolution and will not be very anti-Pakistani as many in India are hoping.  

External, Internal    

Trump was a full backer of India with many in the US think tanks egging India to go for a military conflict against China. Biden will be more cautious. He may not be openly pro-India in domestic matters as well. Some have remarked that the US may push for a peace talks, though the chances of that are remote. And, as before, US interests come before India's interest, a fact not always understood by sections of the Indian media.

Biden's stance may extend to India's internal policy as well. Zee news says, that Biden has expressed disapproval of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and Vice-Presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ words on the abrogation of Article 70 also is something which India cannot forget. 

“We have to remind the Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world. We are keeping a track on the situation. There is a need to intervene if the situation demands,” she said. 

These are pre-election words, and so, not sacrosanct. But these are not going to be forgotten by the US foreign policy establishment. It could mean greater diplomatic pressure on India even without making public statements. India may have to learn to negotiate its South Asian space without a more indulgent Trump backing it.

If both internal and domestic policies of India are under scrutiny, it will mean greater discomfort for the hawks in India. The Trump-Modi equation is now under a bit under the weather. If Biden gets a chance he will go for a trade deal with China too. At least he will show less of hostility and that might make things more difficult for India. 

As for the rest of South Asia, it really doesn't matter as they deal only with the US on one issue- migration. With Biden already promising to look into granting of citizenship to illegal migrants, support for the US is assured in South Asia.  And if the US can put some pressure on India, the US might get more popular in South Asia than it is now.