Many across India were thrilled by the prospect of an Indian-origin woman occupying the second-highest political office in the US. This was seen days after the announcement was made in mid-August when banners and placards of Harris popped up across Chennai, the hometown of Harris’ mother, Shyamala Gopalan.
Indians from all walks of life, including politicians and billionaire businessmen, shared the excitement of the Indian-American community. Besides stoking national pride, Harris’ nomination also sparked speculation in the Indian media over what it could mean for US-India relations, which have significantly improved over the past couple of decades.
But some experts warn against setting high expectations. “While the Indian-American community may see a point to celebrate, I would not say (a Harris victory) would mean concessions to the India-US relationship,” said Navtej Sarna, who served as India’s ambassador to the US. Sarna told DW, regardless of who wins in November, “the strategic logic of the India-US relationship is very strong.”
During the Cold War years, India had forged strong defense ties with the Soviet Union despite New Delhi’s “non-alignment” strategy. This often came at the expense of its relationship with Washington. But ties between New Delhi and Washington have significantly advanced since the 1990s, with the most notable milestone being the 2005 US-India civil nuclear deal. Under Donald Trump’s presidency, the strategic partnership between India and the US has deepened even as America’s relations with its traditional allies have come under strain.
Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also put their strong personal relationship on public display, by even holding two joint rallies, one in the US and another in India. The two countries came close to signing a trade agreement earlier this year, but negotiations have since stalled, partly due to the pandemic.
These developments are likely to continue post-election, albeit with nuanced changes in case there is a new administration. “The first imperative of a new administration would be to revisit questions around multilateralism, and America’s engagement with its allies. That would be a priority,” said Rudra Chaudhuri, director of Carnegie India, adding that there would be an expectation to reach out to India as part of that effort. “As far as the economy, business and defense are concerned, a new administration will continue efforts to strengthen cooperation in these areas,” he said.
One of the things that has characterised Trump’s presidency was his administration’s willingness to overlook human rights issues, and to work closely with authoritarian regimes. Trump has often sidestepped questions on India’s crackdown in Kashmir and, unlike his predecessor, ignored the issue of declining religious freedom in the South Asian country. While Kamala Harris has not taken a definitive stand on either of those issues, during the presidential campaign she has established herself as a defender of human rights. G Balachandran, Kamala Harris’ uncle and a New-Delhi based academic, is confident that she would not let her Indian heritage keep her from taking a tough stand against human rights abuses in the country. “Kamala won’t withhold what she feels is not right with certain human rights issues in India, just because her mother was Indian,” he told DW.
— This article has been provided by Deutsche Welle