US 2020 election: Democrats vs Republicans- who is a better fit for India ?
Grace Ching Touthang
Historically speaking, Indo-US relations had somewhat a rough start and the present friendly relations was not without some hiccups here and there along the way.
Firstly, we will look at the history of different US Presidents belonging to both Parties and their relationship with India as a form of understanding past political relations between the two countries. Secondly, we need to understand the differences in priorities between the Democrats and the Republicans as foreign relations is driven by shared National interests and having or not having mutual interests and priorities can be detrimental to the diplomatic relations between any two countries. With India’s growing regional influence and having the US as a strong ally, any dramatic changes will have an unpredictable effect on India and with US politics being unpredictable in nature, it gives India more reason to carefully observe.
A brief history of Indo-US relations
As Carl Sagan once said, “You have to know the past to understand the present”. Looking at the past will help us catch a glimpse of how future events might turn out. The past can provide us with patterns that can guide and help us make informed decisions.
Let us start with PM Nehru’s visit to the US to meet Democratic President Truman in 1949 which set the tone for the two countries relation even before the formal proclamation of the Non-Aligned Movement in which India took a major leadership role. There was distrust and constraints between the two countries following the Non-Aligned Movement throughout the Cold War era. President Truman also refused to provide India with economic and food assistance and did not do much to help resolve the Kashmir dispute.
However, on Nehru’s next visit to the States in 1956, there was a significant achievement with the then Republican President Eisenhower who increased economic and food assistance and support to India. He also became the first US President to visit independent India.
In 1962 during the Indo-China Border Dispute War, PM Nehru wrote to the then Democratic President JF Kennedy for assistance in which the latter did provide support and assistance and arms but rated Nehru’s visit as “the worst State visit ever”.
Washington and Delhi had a close tie that is, until the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War in which the US, under Democratic President Lyndon B Johnson supported Pakistan because India, despite maintaining a neutral and non-aligned policy as much as they could, leaned a bit more towards the USSR whereas Pakistan decided to side with the US during the Cold War. Also, in 1971, the US, under President Nixon, a Republican gave assistance to Pakistan which resulted in the formation of Bangladesh.
In 1974, India completed its first Nuclear test which led to over two decades of estrangement between the two countries. In 1978, India rejected the Nuclear Non-proliferation Act enacted by the Democratic Carter administration which ended all nuclear assistance between the two countries. However, the Republican President Reagan wanted to form stronger technological ties with India.
In 1991, PM Rao launched economic reforms with the US which aided in the expansion of economic ties between the two countries. The then Republican President George HW Bush was a strong supporter of Indian democracy.
Democratic President Clinton’s visit to India in 2000 ended the estrangement between the two countries and signified a shift in Washington’s orientation away from Pakistan. But his administration also took stern measures against India regarding its nuclear program and his Government also challenged the human rights record of Kashmir.
In 2001, Republican President George W Bush’s administration lifted all remaining sanctions imposed on India and the relationship seemed to blossom over mutual concerns regarding terrorism and Energy Security. He also offered a nuclear deal which ended India’s nuclear outcast status.
Obama, during his Presidency became the first US President to visit the country twice and hosted Indian leaders a number of times in the White House. The Obama administration was vocal about the importance of religious freedom amidst a growing religious intolerance in India. However, strengthening ties with India was a priority and Obama also pushed for India’s permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
President Trump came to power during a time when there was huge development in Indo-US cooperation in security and defence. In 2018, US gave India access to advanced technologies used by them and enabled military intelligence sharing which is another step forward in their partnership. He also backed Modi over CAA and trusts his way of dealing with religious freedom and cross-border terrorism and tension.
There is no doubt that the two share a good personal chemistry and a “bromance” with each other cemented through their famous joint rally in Houston, Texas called ‘Howdy, Modi’, the first of its kind as well as an increasing strategic convergence on countering China.
The relation has benefitted India in various ways. Needless to say, Indo-US relations are based on strong strategic partnership and continues to remain strong under Modi and Trump.
(To be contd)