What Joe Biden’s victory in the US elections means for India

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US president-elect Joe Biden may disagree with his predecessor on most issues, but experts believe, there’s one that he will be in complete agreement with: America’s relationship with India.

Biden is likely to continue building a stronger alliance with India, like Donald Trump, who is widely believed to have a close friendship with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, with both of them bragging about their bond on various occasions.

“India has bipartisan or in a sense non-partisan support in American politics. Our footprint is very wide and so is our acceptability. Different sets of politicians who disagree on many things agree on India. And I think that is a very good place to be,” Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar had said in September when asked about who between Trump and Biden would be more favourable for India.

The biggest factor working in India’s favour right now is the rising global anti-China sentiment. But beyond that, the path to a smooth relationship between the two nations includes a list of issues that Biden will have to address.


The Covid-19 outbreak has changed the world’s view of China. India, on its part, has been dealing with an intense situation with its neighbour due to a deepening border conflict.

While Trump openly expressed his extreme displeasure for China at the risk of severing ties permanently, analysts believe that Biden will take a more diplomatic route. However, not much is expected to change for India.

Biden is likely to continue viewing India as a key ally in pushing back against China. “India stands to benefit from improved relations with the US as both countries attempt to neutralise the rising power of China,” said Viram Shah, co-founder and CEO of investment firm Vested Finance.

Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate for South Asia, Wilson Centre, had earlier told Quartz that on the China front, he believes, India may gain more from Biden as president “given that it could count on more robust efforts to develop a global consensus” against China.

The H-1B visa issue

Trump’s stance on the H-1B visa issue has been a major dampener for Indians in recent years. During his tenure, Trump made the coveted long-term work visa hard to get and even temporarily banned it.

But Biden is committed to working on immigration reforms and keeping families together, which could ease hurdles for H-1B visa holders and aspirants. Biden has said that he will turn the clock back and eliminate the anti-immigration proclamations and executive orders issued by Trump.

However, even as these promises paint a rosy picture, his support of a wage-based allocation process for H-1Bs, may become a problem. ”The wage-based visa allocation process is a disadvantage for foreign students who enter the workforce at entry-level wages,” Phil Curtis, co-managing partner at Chin & Curtis LLP, had told Quartz in October.

Trade ties with India

Despite Modi and Trump’s friendship, the latter has on various occasions termed Indian policies as “unfair.”

But Biden’s win will mean a multi-faceted, potentially more favourable relationships, especially in trade policies for India, UBS Global Research said in October.

Climate change agreement and Iran nuclear deal

Trump pulled the US out of both the Paris Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. So now, India will closely watch Biden’s moves on the two issues.

In his campaigns, Biden promised to reverse both these decisions. If the US takes a U-turn on Iran, it will give India access to cheaper oil.

And if the US re-joins the Paris Agreement, climate change negotiations would happen at a common place and India stands to gain in terms of leading the efforts. Take, for instance, the India-based International Solar Alliance (ISA), which was launched by Modi and Francois Hollande, former president of France, on Nov. 30, 2015. The overarching objective of the ISA is to collectively address key common challenges to the scaling up of solar energy in ISA member countries.