Script: Dr. Stuti Banerjee, Research Fellow, ICWA
Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister had a telephone conversation with the new US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on 29 January 2021. The conversation along with similar conversations between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and NSA Ajit Doval with their respective counterparts in the US is not just the beginning of the formal engagement with the new US administration but points to the bipartisan support that India enjoys in the US.
The recently declassified document on the Trump Administration’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific highlights that the US strategic policy in the Indo-Pacific was driven by a need for collaboration with allies and partners, especially India. Indeed, one of the strategy’s plainest successes was fulfilling the objective ‘to create a quadrilateral security framework with India, Japan, Australia, and the United States as the principal hubs’. India shares with the US the need for a peaceful, open, free and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. The two nations are also concerned about the increasing assertiveness of China in the region.
Apart from the strategic relations, the new US administration is making some policy changes such as rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. With the nomination of John Kerry as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, the Biden-Harris Administration is signalling a serious commitment to climate action in the United States and worldwide. Prioritising the climate emergency by the new administration is imperative to drive global ambition in the lead up to the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement.
India has supported the climate agreement and is making reasonable progress on two of the three key pledges it made in Paris. After his congratulatory calls to President Biden, PM Modi had tweeted that he would like to work with the new administration on shared concerns namely-climate change and Covid-19 along with cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
The world cannot solve the climate change issue without India’s active participation. The US – India climate and clean energy relationship are critical to achieving that aim. Beyond the global climatic impacts, a robust US – India partnership is in each government’s national interest, including strengthening energy security and mitigating the climate crisis.
As stated by PM Modi, cooperation on Covid-19 is necessary and perhaps the top priority between the two governments. Foreign Minster Jaishankar and Secretary Blinken have discussed efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Recognising the challenges of a post-Covid world, they agreed to work together to address global issues, including safe and affordable vaccine supply.
India is supplying the vaccine to a number of nations from immediate neighbours to partners in other regions such as Brazil, Nicaragua along with the Caricom nations, Oman and Bavarian in the Gulf region. India has committed itself to continue to supply the vaccine to partner countries in a phased manner to ensure that it is able to reach out to as many nations as possible.
The US has appreciated India’s s role in furthering global health amidst the coronavirus pandemic and described the country as the “true friend” for using its pharmaceutical sector to help people across the world. Prime Minister Modi has said the vaccine production and delivery capacity of India, which is known as the ‘pharmacy of the world’ and produces 60 per cent of vaccines globally, would be used for the benefit of all humanity in fighting the coronavirus crisis.
The two nations have appreciated the robust defence and security ties, growing economic engagement, productive health-care collaboration and strong people-to-people linkages as its essential pillars. President Biden has deep knowledge and personal relations with leaders of the region. He has long been an advocate of deeper ties with India, going back to his days as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He played a crucial role in lifting US sanctions on India in 2001 as well as in getting the US–India nuclear deal through the Senate in 2008, and when he was Vice President in the Obama administration, the US declared India a ‘Major Defense Partner’. He and his administration have continuously stressed the need to strengthen partnerships, especially in the region. The talk between Foreign Minister Jaishankar and Secretary Blinkin sets the platform for the trajectory of Indo-US relations in the emerging post-pandemic world.