Come November 2020 and the world will once again look to Washington D.C with bated breath to assess what is at stake based on the outcome of the Presidential elections, a ritual once in four years. No other country’s domestic elections generates as much interest and curiosity for the world as much as the US Presidential elections since it has a significant impact on the Geopolitical consequences.
Will it be status quo with the return of President Trump or is there a surprise in store where the opponent and former Vice President Joe Biden pulls off a victory is anybody’s guess. Not because it is any rocket science but the sheer nature of the elections which has sprung surprises from time to time including in 2016.
While there is consensus largely among the international community that the return of President Trump will mean the continuation of the America First policy, there is more anticipation and curiosity about what a Biden Presidency may look like. To begin with, while the election will largely be decided on domestic factors including the recent racial violence across the country following the killing of a young Afro-American man George Floyd by the police and handling of the Coronavirus by the incumbent, the strategic community in Washington D.C. will be gearing up for what role the US will play globally over the next four years.
With President Trump making US withdraw from mega trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the global climate accord, the World Health Organization (WHO), the confidence of the world in the US leadership globally has taken a beating. Joe Biden with his policies and experience has made it amply clear that he will ensure the US returns to the pre-Trump era status quo that would include re-establishing the role of the US as the leading global power and more involvement on international issues, revive major alliances, and significantly enhance the role of international institutions by re-engaging with them.
While Biden’s plans are optimistic, it will not be easy to return to the pre-Trump era status quo and this is largely due to the changed geopolitical scenario. While conventional wisdom suggests that a Biden administration will largely bear similarities to the Obama and Clinton administrations the task for Biden is uphill. To begin with, no President in living memory has inherited a pandemic of this magnitude combined with a severe global economic crisis. While Obama inherited the 2008 global financial crisis he did not have to deal with a pandemic.
Biden also has the unenviable task of handling an expansionist China on one hand and reassuring the world of the US leadership internationally on the other hand. The increasing hostilities between US and China under the Trump administration and the fear of more trade wars will be a challenging task if Biden becomes President.
The next US administration will have its plate full in handling the direction of Middle East policy and crafting a more coherent China policy. Be it Trump or Biden, the US will have it difficult in convincing allies that it is more than ready to take on the mantle of the world. Things with Iran aren’t going to be easy either though a Biden win may see a change in the US engagement with Iran.
What’s In It For India?
India is one of the few countries where there is largely a bipartisan consensus in the US. However, there are a few contentious issues between the two countries in trade and immigration that need to be addressed. The suspension of H-1B visas and student visas by the Trump administration until next year has raised concerns for the Indians working and studying in the US. The Indian IT sector that sponsors many of them on H-1B visas is expect to be hit badly. This move by the Trump administration is likely to cost the Indian companies as much as Rs.1200 crore according to industry reports.
Joe Biden while expressing concerns about the human rights situation in Kashmir also reiterated that India is a natural partner of the US and if he becomes President he will revoke the order of the Trump administration on H-1B visas. He also emphasised on the need to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries in the backdrop of a growing assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region. The US condemned the recent attacks by Chinese forces that killed at least 20 Indian soldiers and expressed support to India.
This US election campaign has been the most lacklustre in the last 20 years largely due to the pandemic apart from having candidates aged close to 80 that has had a lack of a vibrant youthful candidate like Obama or Bill Clinton. Irrespective of who becomes US President, the world at large would hope for the US to step up and play a larger role globally and show leadership at the time of a major global crisis.