US Elections 2020: India is keeping a close watch on the US Presidential election as Incumbent President Trump Donald Trump is facing the toughest competition from Joe Biden, the former vice president as a rival candidate in the polls. Both have said they want strong relations with India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also has experience of working with both the Democrats—Barack Obama administration—and the Republican under the current Trump administration.

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Also, The prospect that vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris — who has Indian origins — could occupy the second-highest political office in the U.S. has caught the imagination of millions of ordinary people in the world’s largest democracy.

Why is the US election important for India?

  • Bilateral Relations: Despite some friction over trade issues, the India-U.S. relationship has steadily strengthened in security and defense cooperation in the last four years. Few world leaders have a friendship as visible as Donald Trump and PM Narendra Modi. Their bond is rooted in their shared interests—including security, defense, and mutual concerns about a rising China—as well as their similar leadership styles.

By contrast, Democratic challenger Joe Biden and running mate Harris have been vocal about PM Modi’s Hindu-nationalist policies, including his administration’s decision to revoke disputed Kashmir’s semiautonomous powers.

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  • A large number of Indian students study in the US, and a large number of Indian companies are based there. There’s also scientific research and collaboration between the countries. The US emerges as India’s single most important relationship.
  • China: The India-China boundary dispute is flaring and Donald Trump has been maintaining a stronger side for India. It’s happening because China and India have a fundamental difference on the boundary.India’s trade disputes with China, again, is a bilateral issue. It’s China that’s blocking India’s membership in multilateral organisations like the UN Security Council (UNSC), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
  • The development will determine the extent of cooperation between the two countries. Irrespective of the political outcome, there will be continuity with regards to fostering a deeper strategic, economic and technological partnership between India and the US. The only variable that would be affected by the outcome is the pace of deepening the cooperation.
  • Commentators have noted Biden’s recent, more hardened view of China. He has called Xi “a thug” and written about “the need to get tough on China”. His campaign has laid out specific steps it will take vis-à-vis Tibet and Taiwan, and talked of a “genocide” in Xinjiang. But what a Biden administration sees as the terms of strategic competition with China and how it might choose to blend in cooperation will have implications for India

But India might not see as big a difference between the candidates as other countries do.

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