Indian Americans voted Biden for his 'maturity,' increased sense of security
Published: Nov 12, 2020 10:57 PM

Kamala Harris, listens to Joe Biden's speech during their first press conference in Wilmington, Delaware in August. Photo: AFP

After all the ups and downs of the US presidential election campaign, it seems the boots have almost hit the ground. As a leading superpower, the choice of the next president gets global attention and India is no exception. 

On Sunday, at dawn in Thulasendrapuram, a little village in southern India, residents started stringing firecrackers across the road. They flooded the temple, took colored powder and left messages in large letters in front of their homes reading, "Congratulations Kamala Harris, pride of our village." Local media said the village has a special relationship to Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. Her maternal grandfather was born there more than 100 years ago. 

Although India is one of the few countries where a majority of people surveyed expressed confidence in Donald Trump, which analysts believed was possibly due to strong personal ties between Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the election nearly three-quarters of Indian Americans said they planned to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Many Indian American voters expressed the US is headed in the wrong direction under Trump. 

What Biden's likely win will mean for India and the region? The Global Times reporters have spoken to several ordinary Indians, Indian scholars and Indian Americans and found they have expectations and hopes for Biden's policy on India despite speculation in the Indian community that Biden may be tougher on India regarding issues such as human rights. 

More mature, responsible

"I voted for Joe Biden because Biden conducts himself with more maturity and responsibility and will do a better job inspiring hope with Americans and finding solutions to the issues people face," said Tejas Santanam, an Indian American who is a university student in Georgia. 

"The vast majority of the Indian community in the US supports Biden. For most Indians, it is hard to support Trump when he openly acts to the detriment of people with our skin color," said Santanam. 

Indian Americans, the second largest immigrant group in the US, make up less than 1 percent of registered voters for the November 3 election. But both parties have reached out to the community in case they become important in the event of a close vote, media reports.

Niranjana Kumar, 26, a student from USC, said she also voted Biden and Harris and her Indian friends were generally supporting Biden. 

People gather to celebrate Indian Independence Day on August 15 in New York City. Photo: AFP

To Kumar, her reason is very simple: Biden's administration makes her feel more secure. 

"I was worried about the prospect of immigrants in this country and although Biden's campaign doesn't necessarily favor immigration, it's more inclusive and less rigid than Trump administration," she said. 

The 2020 US elections have put many Indian-Americans in grappling with the racial system like never before. In an Indian Express report, it said race was still not at the forefront of most family discussions until this summer, citing the protests in solidarity with George Floyd, a black man murdered by the Minneapolis police. This watershed moment is a microcosm of this year's intergenerational conversations in the Indian-American community, reckoning with their place in America's racial system.

Although they have confidence on Biden and Harris, but some said they still felt a great sense of uncertainty. "His policies are far better than Trump's but I do have my doubts on whether it'll be effective," they said. 

A fresh impetus 

To those scholars and intellectuals in India, Biden's win was a good thing for the US.

"Biden and Kamala Harris coming to power in the US would give a fresh impetus to India-US relations," said Dr Rishika Chauhan, an Indian foreign policy researcher. 

The new administration will make US polices less erratic and more systematic, which would be good in the long run. Though Modi would miss the personal rapport that he shared with Trump, the ties are bound to get stronger as India and the US need each other for geopolitical reasons, Chauhan told the Global Times. 

She said previously, both Biden and Harris have shown their reservations to Modi government's policies on Kashmir and Citizenship Amendment Act; however that was before the two came to power. 

"It remains to be seen how much attention will these topics be given when Biden and Harris are in office, since American leaders are known to pursue its national interests and take pragmatic stands when it comes to its partners and allies," she said. 

A supporter of Biden (center) holds a national flag of India in Miami on November 7. Photo: AFP

"I believe Biden will be good for the US as well as for the world," said Bali Ram Deepak, director of the Centre for Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. "This is what I had analyzed in a mainstream Indian newspaper in September and projected the Biden win." 

In Deepak's eye, Biden's win is the victory of the American people. It is the victory of democracy, pluralism, diversity and unity and the defeat of populism, nativism and social division. 

"Trumpism has left the US society divided, has eroded the American values as well the US global aura. The Biden administration's top priority will be to restore the American value system and its global leadership. I believe the American values are resilient and hold great future," Deepak said.

Deepak said he has faith in Biden and believed if the Biden administration can control the pandemic, set the health and job sector in order and bring in policies aimed at social cohesion, he will win the trust of American people.  

Many Indian Americans reached by the Global Times believed Biden can help improve the coronavirus situation that is ravaging the US. In addition, they said Trump's temper tantrums and emotionally unstable decisions will no longer affect the life of every American.

"President Trump has filed law suits, which may reach up to the Supreme Court, but I don't think the verdict will be different," Deepak said. But he predicted that it may not be a smooth transition of power by sidelining the new administration. 

"He may pass many executive orders such as new appointments of the judges and tax cut and etc. He may boycott the swearing in ceremony, and in worst case scenario we may witness violence but no civil war," Deepak said. "I believe, whatever he does, it will not produce anything substantive in his favor, rather complicate things. Ultimately, he will have to accede."

Future ties

There was a consensus among interviewees that US-India relations will be vital under Biden's presidency. 

As the US fights physical wars in the Middle East and economic battles with China, the presence of an ally such as India in the region would be very valuable to Biden's administration. Trump enjoyed good relations with India, and it would be prudent for Joe Biden to continue that relationship, local residents expressed.   

Whether Biden will reinvigorate the US pivot to Asia or inject new energy to the quadrilateral security dialogue or the Indo-Pacific strategy, India will continue to be a key player in all of these, Deepak said. 

Since the relations have been institutionalized, we will see massive diversification of India-US ties in areas such as technology, defense, space, cyber, and healthcare, he said.  

"As for India and China, I believe, there will be no space for the third-party intervention, they need to resolve their differences and seize the opportunity to foster common development and realize the dream of Asian century," Deepak said. 

As three of the most powerful nations in the world, the US, India, and China should work together, especially on global issues like trade and climate change. While there have been some skirmishes and conflicts between India and China recently, hopefully those will come to a stop and the relations can improve, the student in Georgia said.

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