Biden to have deliberate engagement with India: Expert

Biden administration will have more deliberate, thoughtful engagement with India: Expert

The incoming Biden administration will have a more deliberate and thoughtful engagement with India, a noted foreign policy expert has said, asserting that there will be an opportunity to work with New Delhi to balance the burgeoning influence of China in the region.

Sohini Chatterjee, a faculty member at Columbia University who previously served as a senior policy advisor in the Obama administration, said in some cases, there will be a "little bit of consistency" as both US President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden believe that India is an important strategic partner in the region.

But Trump's relationship with India was a bit more short-term and reactive, the Biden administration is likely to have a slightly more deliberate and thoughtful engagement with India, Chatterjee told PTI.

"I think there'll be an opportunity to really work with India to balance the kind of burgeoning influence of China in the region, and structure a dialogue that that seeks, in some ways to counterbalance that burgeoning influence," she said, adding that the QUAD engagement involving Japan and Australia would continue.

Chatterjee, who is also a senior associate at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, and Legal Advisor to Independent International Legal Advocates, said for the Biden administration at the minimum human rights will now be "on the table as a critical issue to address."

The Biden administration is going to be much more concerned with basic, fundamental human rights, she said.

Chatterjee said that there could be greater cooperation between India and the US in the multilateral institution, in particularly at the UN Security Council where India is now a non-permanent member for the next two years beginning January next year.

Now that President-elect Biden is planning on joining the Paris Climate accord, as soon as he gets into office, having a strategic dialogue with India on how to combat climate change would be a great opportunity, she said.

Observing that the Biden administration in its early days was probably going to be very concerned with tackling some of the issues on the home front including Covid-19, Chatterjee said there are opportunities to work with India on issues like climate change, and Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, that would probably be an initial priority.

Noting that the bilateral trade relationship has been strained under the Trump administration, Chatterjee said that Biden is well aware of the importance of the US- India trade relationship, as well as the need for the two countries to work to counterbalance China's influence on trade in the region.

"So, I think there'll be a pivot there on the trade side. The defense cooperation will likely continue. And these transnational challenges, like climate change, and pandemics, and even international terrorism, will probably become even more critical under the Biden administration," she said.

Stating that the Trump administration was very keen to disengage from the multilateral institutions, she noted the Biden administration has a chance to lead again on the global stage.

"And having India sort of rising to the occasion at the international space, I think, this would be a great time for that as well. I think the US should work with others with other democracies to not only address the kind of imbalances in favour of China at the WTO, but also address that sort of imbalances and trade that favour China in the region," Chatterjee said.

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