The Kamala Way: On being Biden’s running mate and the future of India-US-China relations


The appointment of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential candidate for the upcoming 2020 US elections saw an encouraging and hopeful vote of confidence amongst the black community and the Indian community alike, understandably because of her mixed cultural roots from both the races. While choosing a woman of colour also saw Biden’s safe passage of inclusivity, a political masterstroke in itself and especially when the country is still in a rage and mourning the murder of George Floyd

If elected, Harris would be a perfect match for Biden. She can very well be like what Biden was to Obama back in his administration. Biden was said to have an understanding and comfort in his conversations with both the white Americans and the black community. He was able to capture the emotions of the middle class, in abundance, something that his peers missed out on. In fact, he was chosen by Obama for his sheer comfort level with him, and for his acceptance and encouragement for what Obama had envisioned for the USA. In crux, Biden stood out by himself by what he had to offer and was not always under the administrative shadow of his senior (President Obama) unlike Trump’s administration, where questioning is responded with dismissal. Kamala and Biden are already seen to have that mutual understanding citing the support and kind of discussions, economy, racial inclusion, human rights, climate change, foreign policies (and alliances) to name a few that they are having in the campaign. Issues like women’s rights, gender-based violence, and ethnic and racial discrimination cross the traditional boundaries between domestic and foreign policy, said former undersecretary of defense Michèle Flournoy, who knows Harris well. She noted that President Barack Obama gave his vice president considerable power over U.S. foreign policy, including a portfolio of issues to manage. That, she said, is likely to be the model that Biden will follow for Harris. Also, a Biden-Kamala pair would be a spiritual and political reincarnation of a White-Black pairing of the previous Biden-Obama rule. Harris doesn’t have much experience but she very well will bring a strong and pragmatic voice on the discussion table, taking the Democratic Liberalism approach forward.

Being one half Indian, Kamala Harris along with Joe Biden, if elected, can and is likely to work for binding together the strained US-India relations that have surfaced over the last few months both because of the pandemic and Trump’s exclusionist conservative policy approach. The most important will be the H1B visa issue on which Harris being remarkably positive wrote against revoking the ‘right of spouses of H-1B visa holders to seek employment’. She also called for an elimination of country quotas for getting green cards.

On its relations with China; not just the whole set of unfavourable activities by China like stealing US’ intellectual property rights, dumping substandard products into their economy, frequent trade barriers is something that has made the Americans upset but also the Chinese economic expansion and dominance in the global arena in the recent years along with curbing rights in South China Sea region (and the countries associated with it) and Hong Kong and dissent in its own country has propelled them to a bitter relationship, stern stand and a hopeful strong response in the coming years, possible only if we see a Biden administration (Trump has been lenient on China allowing them totake over the world). Kamala’s appointment as an Indian American is the first big punch from the USA on the whole debate, adding fuel to fire as India-China relations have also been strenuous in the recent past. One might argue that this will not go well with the stalwarts of America’s capitalistic foundation: the industrialists and the tech giants keeping in mind the fact that US and China have had a strong relationship when it comes to technology. No longer seems to be the case as even the business community has increasingly cooled or is ready to do so towards its stand on China; the blocking of US firms on China’s key economic sectors is one of the crucial reasons. The relocation of factories (to India) post-pandemic is one of the major economic shifts to be done by some of the US giants. 

Kamala on the personal level has not only criticised China on its human rights’ violation of Uygur Muslims but also announced her support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. But she has also been rational about how the complicated relationship should work out; her rejection of Trump’s tariff war on China which would hurt California’s business (where she was the Senator) goes to show that when it comes to economic front, both the countries would have to agree on a bilateral, mutually benefiting trade relationship (US-China trade value totals $700 billion on average) whoever comes in power. On the other hand, US’ economic ties with India is quantitatively smaller (on average $80 billion of trade value) than that with China, a fact that might as well turn into a major policy concern for Biden-Kamala to balance the trade-off; either to support India unequivocally in all terms and sectors – local employment, trade, offshore business or to reach a trilateral India-US-China agreement each side having to compromise something for a rather peaceful, three-way progress.

Few other issues that will be noteworthy are – the interests of the three parties on the South China Sea region conflict (US and India have shown interest in investing in Taiwan and Maldives respectively upsetting the Chinese), the foreign policies of the three countries on the politically unstable nations of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and lastly India and US’ response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Vidhi Bubna
Vidhi Bubna
Vidhi Bubna is a freelance journalist from Mumbai who covers international relations, defence, diplomacy and social issues. Her current focus is on India-China relations.


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