FACT CHECK: Biden Presidency Better for India than Trump
A look into how the U.S. Presidential Election impacts India
[reminder - underlined text, with exception of section headers, link to source documents]
I am an Indian American. I was born and raised here in the greater Chicagoland area, but my family is originally from Gujarat - that's right the land of PM Narendra Modi. In fact, my father was born in Gujarat not long after Independence Day in 1947 - which is to say I was raised to love mother India as much as I love America.
Now, if you're like me, you've probably been forwarded many videos on WhatsApp claiming that Donald Trump is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's best friend and closest ally. These videos suggest, with no subtlety whatsoever, that a vote for Trump is a vote for Modi.
Similarly, you've probably seen Facebook and WhatsApp posts claiming that Vice President Joe Biden is an anti-India and anti-Modi candidate who wants to teach Islam in schools to convert everyone to the Islamic Faith. Politifact rates this claim as "FALSE."
Is there any truth to any of these claims?
These assertions about each candidate are false. But don't take my word for it - let's check the facts and data. Let's let history, policy, and reliable sources do the talking.
If you take the time to scratch the surface of these claims, what you will undoubtedly see is that Joe Biden, and not Donald Trump, is better for Indian Americans, as well as India as a whole.
This piece will dig into all those details, but if you want the summary version here it goes:
In the nearly 4 years that Donald Trump has been President of the United States he has, with respect to India, taken the following actions:
Revoked India's Special Trade Partner Status
Levied Tariffs on Indian Imports
Cut Visas to Indian Immigrants
Produced No Trade Deals
Blamed India's Greed for Withdrawal of Paris Climate Agreement
Falsely Claimed that PM Modi asked Trump to Intervene in Kashmir
Agreed to Pakistan's Request to Mediate Kashmir in Exchange for Pakistan's aid in Afghanistan.
In truth, save for Trump's photo opportunities with PM Modi in Houston and Ahmadabad, his only "win" with India may be the multi-billion dollar arms deal which will cost India upwards of $3 billion. However, PM Modi is choosing to step away from that deal in order to improve India's own self-reliance with respect to its defense equipment, so that deal can be removed from the win column as well.
When it is all said and done, Trump is simply India's "Photo Friend" and not a real ally. He has taken advantage of the Houston and Ahmadabad events whilst producing no tangible results.
Conversely, the Obama-Biden administration took the following actions:
Granted India Major Defense Partners Status
Improved Immigration Policies for Indians and Indian Americans
Endorsed India to have Permanent Seat on the United Nations' Security Council
Supported India against China's Growing Influence in Asia
Encouraged and Executed Paris Climate Agreement with India
Entered into a Historic Nuclear Energy Deal with India
Moreover, to those that are still enamored with Trump's appearances with PM Modi in Houston and Ahmadabad, remember the following:
It was the Obama-Biden administration that first welcomed PM Modi with a grand reception in 2014, including a separate welcome presser led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden
It was the Obama-Biden administration that was the first ever to make two official State trips to India whilst still in office
The Obama-Biden administration was also the first ever to light a Diwali Diya in office
In fact, if you're a keen observer of South Asians in American Politics, you may be aware of the fact that there are 5 Indian Americans in the United States Congress at the moment (Ami Bera, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Kamala Harris) and they are all Democrats - there are no South Asian Republicans in Congress. [Updated: Biden has chosen Kamala Harris for his Vice President.]
The notion that the party that embraces Indian Americans the most, is the most anti-Indian is simply intellectually dishonest.
If you are one of the WhatsApp warriors promoting the notion that Biden is anti-India, consider the following:
While Hindu nationalists are supporting Trump because they believe Biden is anti-Modi, Muslim fundamentalists are supporting Trump because they believe Biden is far too cozy with Modi as a result of his senior advisor, Amit Jani who has strong family ties to the BJP and PM Modi.
The fact that Hindu nationalists are being told Biden is anti-Modi and Muslim nationalists are being told that Biden is pro-Modi should set off serious RED FLAGS! This is pro-Trump propaganda pitting Hindus and Muslims against each other with contradicting messaging. In fact two days ago, US Intelligence officials announced that Russia is once again interfering in the 2020 election by falsely smearing Joe Biden in an attempt to elect Donald Trump. These Facebook posts and WhatsApp propaganda is akin to the work Russian internet farms produced in 2016 as well.
If you're willing to take the time dig into the details beyond this summary, you'll learn that this is not a new phenomenon. That since 1959, Democrats have been the party of India - in favor of ensuring that there was at least one large successful democracy in Asia. Conversely, Republicans have always favored strategic military alliances in the region rather than supported the need for a successful social democracy to serve as an example to the world.
Don't believe me? Keep reading...
In the late 1950s, the fate of Democracy as an institution was under attack from the communist Eastern Bloc, Russia, Cuba, China, North Korea and others. McCarthyism had already run rampant through the United States a few years earlier. The world was at a tipping point. Would the future be Communist or would it be Democratic?
On May 4, 1959 then Senator John F. Kennedy gave a speech breaking down this crisis and advocating with full force that the United States support India to overtake China at all costs.
"So let there be no mistake about the nature of the crisis – both the danger and the opportunity. And let there be no mistake about the urgency of our participation in this struggle. It is not enough that we participate on a crash basis, for temporary relief. We must be willing to join with other Western nations in a serious long-range program of long-term loans, backed up by technical and agricultural assistance – designed to enable India to overtake the challenge of Communist China. The tool for this program can well be the Development Loan Fund."
When Kennedy became President he further pursued this unrelenting support of India to ensure that a large scale democratic presence in Asia stabilized the region. For this reason, in 1962 Nehru asked Kennedy for aid in India's conflict with China. America indeed armed 6 Indian Mountain Divisions, but Democratic President Kennedy wanted to do so much more for India. He had planned a $500 million aid package for India in its fight against China.
Unfortunately, both Kennedy and Nehru would pass away before such a deal could be finalized.
Enter Republican Richard Nixon who was convinced America's support of India was misguided - referring to it as a physiological disorder.
According to Princeton Professor Gary Bass, "The Americans who most liked India tended to be the ones that Nixon could not stand. India was widely seen as a State Department favorite, irritating the president."
Fast forward a few years to Democrat Jimmy Carter who was just the 3rd US President to visit India while in office. Carter, like Kennedy, also saw the importance of supporting Indian democracy in a turbulent world.
Carter said that “India is the world’s largest democracy. In the past, under Mrs. Gandhi, their primary orientation was towards friendship with the Soviet Union. I would like very much for the people of India and for the Prime Minister, Mr. Desai to know how much we value restoration of the strong ties of friendship, trade and commerce.”
America's desire for better ties with India under Carter was short-lived as Presidents Reagan and Bush turned their attention to Pakistan over India for strategic military purposes. During their 12 years of leadership over America, neither ever visited India while in office.