Commentary: Biden Plans Bold New Initiatives for US-India Partnership

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Tim Roemer, Former U.S. Ambassador to India (Photo: courtesy Ambassador Tim Roemer)

Vice President Joe Biden told me before I accepted the appointment as American Ambassador to India in 2009 that this was ‘the most important and defining international relationship’ for the United States. He further emphasized that if “there was anything I needed or required help, call him directly”. I relied on him and he always delivered in helping the Obama Administration craft historic intelligence-sharing and counter-terrorism agreements, deepening commerce and trade to create American jobs, and beginning the Indo-Pacific partnership on anti-piracy and defense policies.

Of course, Joe Biden has a long and trusted relationship with India, going back to his days as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman. Senator Biden masterfully steered the 2008 Civilian Nuclear Agreement through the United States Senate, to an overwhelmingly 86-13 bipartisan vote. Biden’s leadership and loyalty go back even further, as he authored a strong letter to President Bush in 2001 calling for removal of the economic sanctions against India.

Most importantly, looking ahead to further improving and strengthening ties with India, Biden would open up bold new opportunities in this crucial partnership. President Trump has relentlessly targeted the trade gap between India and the United States and attaches singular focus on it at the expense of implementing other important initiatives. Biden speaks of India as a “trusted partner” and is eager to work together on new supply chain resilience and H1B visa issues. He has written in Foreign Affairs magazine that rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement would be one of his first actions, if he is elected. The United States and India signed the International Solar Alliance in 2015, thus providing a foundation for green technology cooperation and the next Green Revolution. But Trump has called global warming a “hoax” and suspended many international efforts and removed the United States from its leadership role in the world. Prime Minister Modi appears keen on resuming more collaboration and joint programs on cleaner air and more ‘green jobs’ in both countries.

India is presiding over the World Health Organization’s Executive Council for the next two years. Biden puts a very high priority on resolving and rebounding from the COVID pandemic and would likely work closely with India on addressing this crisis. Whereas Trump has withdrawn the United States from the WHO, Biden is poised to vigorously re-engage on this issue, and partner with other countries to help on both economic and healthcare policies. Currently, both America and India are experiencing record outbreaks of COVID-19 and rising stress on their hospital systems.

Biden also recognizes the vital national security relationship with India and other partners in the region. The Quadrennial Security Dialogue is an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia and India. This involves highly sophisticated information exchanges, military drills and semi-regular summits. All four countries recently met in Tokyo to further improve their diplomatic contacts and reviewed the possibility of more military drills. A Biden presidency would look to increase bilateral relations and expand to even more multilateral connections.

Biden has selected Senator Kamala Harris as his Vice-Presidential running mate. She has a special relationship with India as her mother comes from south India. Her thorough understanding of India’s strategic importance as China’s border aggression increases, her roots and knowledge of Indian politics, and her broad foreign relations work in the Senate combine to make her an ideal contributor to closer Indian ties.

Joe Biden has pledged to meet with his Holiness, the Dalai Lama if he is elected in November. Every American is grateful for India’s courageous world stand in hosting the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala since his exile from China in 1959. Joe Biden will be a president who works with India on human rights, promoting democracy, and standing up strongly in global affairs for justice and peace. He knows from 40 years of working closely with India’s people and leadership that even better and deeper relations are around the corner. A Biden-Harris Administration would dedicate itself to this outcome.

Tim Roemer is the former U.S. Ambassador to India, a former U.S. Congressman from Indiana and a former 9/11 Commissioner.

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