As Trump slides, Delhi should engage with Biden | Opinion
Biden said earlier this week he will accord high priority to the relationship with India if elected and revoke the H-1B visa suspension. Biden has reached out. What will India do now?
United States (US) President Donald Trump’s re-election chances have dimmed in recent days. He himself acknowledged this, in a moment of self-pity, during an interview with a Fox News anchor, Sean Hannity, last week. He said that Joe Biden is “going to be your president because some people don’t love me”.
Trump is trailing Biden by 9.3 percentage points and 9.6 points in the RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight aggregates of polls respectively. He is also behind in swing states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida that he won in 2016. Georgia and Arizona, which almost always voted Republican in presidential elections, are in play and so is Texas, the reddest state of them all.
Trump, whose approval ratings never crossed the 49% mark in the Gallup polls since he took office, is getting hammered for his handling, or the lack of it, of the two most significant crises of his presidency: The Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 128,000 Americans and infected nearly 2.8 million so far; and the anti-racism unrest that has spread deep into the country.
Trump has tended to treat the coronavirus as an interloper that stole his presidency’s most prized accomplishment and his ticket to a second term: A booming economy. And he has used the protests to further polarise the country with the sole purpose of consolidating supporters for November.
But there is time. Trump is known to have pulled back from the precipice before. Remember the Access Hollywood tapes of October 2016, with Trump bragging about forcing himself on women? Many in his campaign gave up. That was 2016’s “October Surprise”, a phrase used in US elections for unforeseen events that tend to turn around the race irreversibly because the affected candidate does not have enough time to recover. Trump survived it, as we all know.
India was hit by something similar the next month. It has no name but is begging to be called “India’s November Surprise”, when it was caught unawares by Trump’s election on November 9, so convinced was it of Hillary Clinton’s victory. Indian diplomats had scrambled around in panic the morning after for a contact in the Trump campaign to set up a congratulatory phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They figured that out soon enough as Modi was among the first of world leaders to speak with the president-elect.
This is not about a congratulatory phone call though, important as it may have seemed on the morning of November 10. New Delhi should have a line of communication with the Biden campaign, if it hasn’t already. Just in case.
The former vice-president is no stranger to India. He has a long record of backing India — including on the civil nuclear deal as a senator. He visited India in 2013 as vice-president and spoke there for the first time of a relative in India with whom he shares his last name. Even better, Biden said earlier this week he will accord high priority to the relationship with India if elected and revoke the H-1B visa suspension. Biden has reached out. What will India do now?