Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s victory in the US elections is unlikely to spell a deviation in India-US economic and strategic relationship, which is expected to keep strengthening, as both countries share a strong convergence of interest in areas ranging from trade and investments to containing terrorism, say experts and industry representatives.

The US’ ‘America First’ policy, too, is expected to largely stay the same under Biden, as the country continues to battle an economic crisis worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, and India will have to remain watchful.

“The (BJP-led) government had a strong relationship with the Obama administration between 2014 and 2016. It built on the relationship further with the Trump administration. There is a broad bipartisan support in both countries in advancing the relations because of convergence of interests and challenges both face on China and in areas such as containing terrorism,” said Arun Singh, former Indian Ambassador to the US.

Strong economic ties

Singh said that both countries have strong aspirations on the economic side and the relationship has been on track since 2000. From Democratic Bill Clinton to Republican George Bush to Democratic Barack Obama to Republican Donald Trump, relationship with India has continued to strengthen, he said. Even on India’s side, leaders including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi maintained healthy relations with the US.

“To meet technological and economic aspiration, clearly the US partnership will be important for India. Recently, India had a global investor meet and such initiatives would continue,” said Singh.

The US was India’s top trading partner in 2019-20 accounting for exports worth $53.08 billion and imports worth $35.81 billion.

‘America First’ policy to continue

Some experts believe that the problems being faced by India in its trade relations under the Trump regime would continue to a large extent under Biden although the aggression and unpredictability may go down. “Trump is not unpopular in the US as proved by the large number of votes he received. So, it will not be easy for Biden to do a course correction. ‘America First’ will continue to be the bottom line going forward although some of the aggression and unpredictability of US trade actions may decline,” said Biswajit Dhar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

So, if India is hoping for restoration of benefits for exporters under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme ended by Trump or a roll-back in the unilateral application of penal import duties on aluminium and steel, the wait may be long.

Visa woes

On H-1B visa woes of the Indian IT industry in the US, Singh said the new US government will be less harsh on immigration, but it will continue to face divergent pressures on H-1B visas. On one side there are technology companies that say that they need tech workers for their own competitiveness while there are others who argue that there is a lot of unemployment in the US which should be addressed.

With less likelihood of broad changes on the policy front, the US-India business community seems optimistic about the future. “President-elect Biden brings decades of experience advancing US-India ties and played a key role forging the US-India Strategic Partnership in the Obama Administration. Under his leadership, we expect to see a continued bipartisan focus on India and a broad-based approach to India and the Indo-Pacific that touches strategic, security, and economic issues, alongside climate, health, education, science and technology,” according to a statement from the US India Business Council.

As Vice-President in Obama’s government, Biden supported initiatives such as naming India as a major defence partner and favouring India’s membership at the United Nations Security Council. These indications augur well for the future.