Can Indiaretrieve relations with the US, China and others?

by Asif Iqbal - 24 December, 2020, 12:00 1611 Views 0 Comment

New Delhi awaits President Joe Bidens Administration while Mexico waits to see if the border walls will be permanent. Pyongyang is silent while Beijing wonders if the pace of anti-Chinese trade will remain.

It will be a great moment if “CHINA VIRUS” and “Kung flu” -metaphors that were deployed by the US President to the excitement of the crowds at his election rallies, public rhetoric and strong soft diplomacy could be back in action.

Many countries are hoping that conventional diplomatic interactions will be the flavour once again, in areas where the new president of US would like to work with China inspite of the Covid narrative originating from Wuhan.

Mr. Biden has made it clear that while there may be no senior-level visits to China will not be used to provoke China, but the capitalist interest of selling arms to Taiwan will remain.

Though the whole atmosphere will be cooled, excitement coming out for signs of a relationship reversal in the US approach may be deeply disappointed. Though the new president will do his best to refine and decrease the intensity of its approach, the narrative of the US against China will continue with the new administration pressurizing China against human rights issues.

President Biden has also hinted that China should be playing by the rules and its very simple approach and that’s one of the reasons Biden administration is rejoining the WHO (World Health Organization) and hopefully the Paris Climate accord.

He also hinted clearly that it’s not just dealing with the current pandemic but there will be many more in the pipeline for which the world needs to be prepared. Biden is clear that he should promote American interests by looking for opportunities to cooperate with Beijing, subject to conditions of fairness and reciprocal arrangements. Mr. Biden’s team will mark a shift in tone and there will be more continuity than change the US Policy towards India where a strategic partnership is taking shape with the Quadrilateral Dialogue Grouping-India, the US, Australia and Japan featuring all four powers and who displayed unity in the first joint naval exercises in November.

While the approach towards Asia will be as good as the last administration, some humility and confidence will be bundled with the Biden regime and one must accept that the US still has a greater capacity and bandwidth than any other country to mobilise others in collective global action.

This will be a test for Biden with the world currently seeing an erosion of trust in US foreign policy in general and in Asia some hesitation over hard positions on human rights issues. On one side, he should deal with the deadly pandemic and fractured political condition with differences within the Democratic party itself. However, the foreign policy of “America First” will be over as America will take up the mantle of global leadership again.

China has been at its lowest ebb with the US relations since 1979 and it’s not expecting 180 degrees overnight but they hope that Biden will be respectful and reasonable compared to Trump.

They must focus on trade that is the lowest hanging fruit, China can start importing more farm products and will expect Biden to scrap tariffs imposed by Trump. China did for the RCEP the world’s largest trade bloc and US was conspicuously absent in the virtual summit in Hanoi.

But, Mr. Biden will have a lot on his plate after assuming the presidency in January and start with grappling with Covid19, healing the wounds of a racially divided America and has to start worrying about economic recovery.

Unless there is some basis for cooperative action between China and the US, the world will slide into a catastrophe comparable to World War1.

We can only hope that better relations prevail under Mr Biden and China-India both need US equally and now the ball is in Mr. Biden’s court.

Asif Iqbal
President of the Indian Economic Trade Organisation (IETO)

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