Joe Biden supported India-US nuclear deal, Bernie Sanders didn’t
Former US Vice-President Joe Biden had voted, as a senator, to approve the 2008 nuclear deal that fundamentally altered relations between the Washington and New Delhi. Senator Bernie Sanders, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination in a two-man race now, had voted against it.
Biden has been consistently supportive of India even when criticizing it, and Sanders has been consistently critical and occasionally prejudiced.
In October 2008, the two men, both members of the US senate, vote diametrically opposite on a legislation to approve an agreement that is now seen as a turning point in ties between the United States and India, the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. The legislation to ratify the deal was called the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act.
The House of Representatives endorsed in on September 27 with 298 votes in favour of it while 117 members voted against it. In the Senate on October 1, the deal got 86 votes in favour and 13 against. President George W Bush signed it into law a week later.
Biden voted in support of the deal and Sanders voted against it. Biden, in fact, played a larger role in the passage of the bill as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Ten years ago,” Biden said in 2015, as vice-president, at an event commemorating 10 years of the conceptualization of the agreement, “I had the honor of -- because of my position as chairman of the Committee -- of leading the US Senate in an effort to ratify the US-India civilian nuclear agreement, and it helped, in my view, to remove the single largest irritant between two of the world’s greatest democracies.”
Biden’s support for India was evident even in his criticism of Indian nuclear tests in 1998. Describing the tests as a “grave miscalculation”, Biden had said at a senate hearing that “India is not a rogue state. It is not a Libya, a North Korea, or an Iraq. It is the world’s largest democracy and it is a country with which we share much in common”.
Biden’s portfolio of support for India is capped by a highly successful visit to India as vice president in 2013, accompanied by the second lady Jill Biden. Before setting off, he posted an aspirational target of $500 billion for bilateral trade between the two countries, nearly the same as the value of trade between the US and its largest trading partner China. And, while in India, he first talked about the Bidens of India, a family line started there by a “great-great-great grandfather” who went to India as an army officer with the East India Company and married an Indian woman and settled down there.
Sanders, on the other hand, has built himself a bulging portfolio of remarks and observations so critical of India he has seemed prejudiced, as presaged by his vote against the nuclear deal.
In August, he called for the lifting of restrictions in Kashmir and for the US to back a UN-driven resolution of India-Pakistan dispute, in a stark departure from stated US policy, endorsed by both Democratic and Republican administrations, that India and Pakistan should resolve their differences bilaterally.
Sanders sided with Pakistan on this in an unmistakably partisan move, and looked complicit in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s campaign launched around then calling for intervention by the UN, or any third party, abandoning Pakistan’s commitment to resolve the dispute bilaterally under the Simla Agreement.
A few weeks ago, the senator slammed President Donald Trump for dismissing protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act as an internal matter of India during his visit and then criticized the defense deal signed by the two countries at the time, saying they should be working together, instead, to combat climate change, as if they were a binary choice.