Thursday, December 9, 2021

2020 US Presidential Election & Future Of Indo-US Relations

While the official declaration of US presidential election will take a few more weeks, the counting of votes has shown a trend that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States.

The US presidential election held on 3 November 2020 has been the most controversial election in the history of quadrennial race to the White House. Ever since the United States emerged as a superpower in the aftermath of the second world war, the election in November month in every fourth year of the global calendar has become an event that not only interests the American people but also the entire world.

However, the 2020 US presidential election is epoch-making with a difference. This election took place in the midst of a virulent COVID19 pandemic where the United States was the most virus-infected country with the largest number of deaths in the global count. Common sense told that not many Americans would vote during the election for fear of the Corona Virus. But instead, the American voters’ turnout record was the highest in more than a century! Common perception around the world and even in the United States was that the election would be a referendum on the Trump Presidency and that a “blue wave” will appear and push Donald Trump out of the White House. But the prolonged counting of votes has clearly indicated that there was no “blue wave”.

Instead, the large number of people who voted for President Trump has proved myriad poll surveys dead wrong. Pollsters earlier had failed to predict the outcome of 2016 presidential election and victory of Donald Trump. This time they failed to  prognosticate that almost half of the electorates in the US would vote for the US President!

The acute economic crisis, high unemployment rate, deficient health infrastructure, country wide protest against racial discrimination and police brutality did not discourage vast number of people to vote for Trump and the expected “blue wave” in favor of  Joe Biden did not materialize.

This scenario emboldened Donald Trump to declare victory much before the counting was over. Many political leaders from the Republican Party promptly distanced themselves from Trump’s position. Moreover, there were few takers for President Trump’s allegations of ballot fraud and vote counting errors.

Hundreds of cases were registered in above 40 different states by the Trump campaign teams to either stop counting, prevent further voting or against counting the mail-in ballots.

But the US Constitution does not empower anyone to prevent legal counting of votes. As result, counting continued in swing states and the trend has been persistently, though slowly, indicating that Joe Biden would be able to acquire the required magic number of 270 electoral votes to be able to enter the White House.

What is there in future for Indo-US relations under a Biden Administration? First and foremost, Joe Biden is a known political personality for India. He was in US Senate for above three decades, and has also served in the influential in Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He served as the US Vice President for eight years during the Obama Administration. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had very cordial, cooperative and fruitful relations with President Barack Obama.

Thus Indian diplomacy will easily find comfort to further strengthen the strategic partnership with the United States during the Biden Administration. There were several anxieties in India when Barack Obama became the US President and succeeded his Republican predecessor George W Bush. There were doubts whether President Obama would carry forward the agreements and commitments made by President Bush.

As it turned out, Indo-US relations became more robust and India was identified as the “linchpin” of Obama’s pivot to Asia policy. When Donald Trump became the President, he changed the doctrine of pivot to Asia and gave a new nomenclature –“Indo-Pacific Strategy”. Yet again India was considered by the Trump Administration as a key player in it.

China will continue to be  the principal strategic challenge for the US. Pakistan appears to be perennial headache for the US. Thus the strategic logic of Indo-US relations will remain unchanged during the Biden Administration. Bipartisan US support for closer ties with India will certainly go along.

Script: Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra, Pro VC & Rector, JNU

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