Donald Trump vs Joe Biden: What's in it for India?

Key Highlights

  • “We have great support from India. We have great support from PM Modi. I would think Indian people would be voting for Trump,” President Trump has said
  • Biden termed Trump’s crackdown on H-1B visas as “sudden and harmful”
  • 1.2 million Indian-Americans will be voting in the US elections this year

While United States President ’s bonhomie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi is well known, US Presidential candidate too has been a long time friend of India. President Trump and Biden are all set for a war of words in the Presidential debates in the run-up to the much-awaited elections in November, one cannot help but wonder who will be a better friend for India?

While Trump calls PM Modi a ‘good friend’, Biden pushed the Republican government under George Bush to end sanctions against India back in 2001. “India will respond with reciprocal acts of goodwill in nonproliferation and other arenas,” Biden had said in the letter to the then President George Bush.

Now more than ever, a potential US President’s views on India’s border issues are of utmost importance for the Modi-led government’s global agenda. has maintained that he is open to mediation in India’s tussle with China and also on the Kashmir issue. “Anything I can do to mediate, anything I can do to help I would do. Kashmir has been a thorn in lots of people’s sides for a long time. There are two sides to every story,” Trump had said.

Biden on the other hand has expressed displeasure on India’s handling of Kashmir and passing the CAA as law. “In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir…… has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the NRC in Assam and the passage of the CAA into law. These measures are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy,” said a post titled ’s Agenda on Muslim-American Communities on his campaign website.

What has hurt Indians most are the stricter norms introduced for H-1B visas under the Trump administration. Trump said the goal was to “hire American” after he signed an executive order preventing federal agencies from contracting or subcontracting foreign workers mainly those on H-1B visa from hiring. Although, Trump again eased some of the restrictions in August. In an address to the Indian diaspora on India’s Independence Day this year, Biden termed Trump’s decisions on H-1B visas “sudden and harmful”. Biden’s campaign website has said that he will rollback the visa restrictions unleashed by the Trump administration.

“Either candidate would work very well for India. They’re perfectly happy with the policies of this administration,” said Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director at the Asia Program. “Regardless of Biden or Trump in the White House, the relationship with India is going to be a major priority. That’s because there is a very strong bipartisan support for partnership with India, particularly given the US-China rivalry,” he explained.

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The 1.2 million Indian-American voters are clearly of importance to both candidates as they have tried to win their votes by drawing attention to their friendship with India. A report by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund said that 84% of Indian-Americans voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. But, the friendship between the leaders of the two countries and the advocacy for each other may swing Indian-American voters.

We will have to see what Indians will root for – Namaste Trump again, or Biden with Indian-origin Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris by his side.     

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