The new US Democrats may be India’s safest bet
Warren is among the first in what is certain to be a #MeToo movement of its own. At least two dozen possible contenders are weighing runs, and that’ll make for a crowded field. New Delhi will be observing this process with interest since the eventual nominee will face off against Donald Trump and have a fair shot was getting into the White House in January 2021columns Updated: Jan 05, 2019 16:30 IST
Even as the ball dropped in New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve, Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, decided to get hers rolling. She formed an exploratory committee for a potential try at securing the Democratic Party nomination to contest the 2020 US presidential elections.
At least two dozen possible contenders are weighing runs, and that’ll make for a crowded field. New Delhi will be observing this process with interest since the eventual nominee will face off against Donald Trump and have a fair shot was getting into the White House in January 2021.
Warren has a familial connection to India, through her son-in-law, Sushil Tyagi. Her support within New England’s Indian-American community is also well established. Her senate compatriots, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, two other likely hopefuls, are similarly situated. California’s Harris is half-Indian by heritage, and Booker hails from the state of New Jersey, where the community thrives.
The friendliest candidate to the community, by far, though, would be the former Vice President, Joe Biden. His proximity to India and its diaspora in America is so evident that when in 2006 the gaffe-prone Biden seemed to stereotype Indian-Americans as convenience store workers, his loudest defenders came from the community. In 1998, when the US establishment was seething over India’s nuclear tests, Biden warned against alienating New Delhi. As The Diplomat recounted, speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden said, “I think it is important to keep in mind our long-term strategic interests. We also need to make distinctions. Despite its grave miscalculation this week, India is not a rogue state.” He was also among the staunchest votaries of the India-US civilian nuclear deal.
These are, of course, among the known quantities. For some others, X marks the spot. Among them is Vermont’s independent senator, Bernie Sanders, who will have to rejoin the Democratic Party if he wants another shy at the nomination (just as he did in 2016). His foreign policy pronouncements are as rare as Twitter civility from Trump. There are others that are ciphers in this respect, like failed Texas senate candidate, Beto O’Rourke.
But let’s recall the instance of another former candidate with scant foreign policy chops: Barack Obama in 2008. His stance on Kashmir was looked at askance by India. By the time he demitted office in 2016, relations with India were among his signal achievements on the world stage.
The next Democratic candidate, therefore, would have to stray far from the party’s consensus vis-à-vis India to create concerns in New Delhi. Meanwhile, Trump, with his unpredictability, may have already caused plenty of ulcers there. A Democrat may even be the preferred option, at least saving on the Twitter-induced antacids.
As oddsmakers in Las Vegas make a book on the next Democratic candidate, that person could prove a safe bet for India.
Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs
The views expressed are personal
First Published: Jan 05, 2019 15:25 IST