November 9, 2020: Over the past few weeks, the world had been as much glued to the US election drama as were Americans themselves. After all, even though the United States imposes itself on the planet as its most influential empire, there are stark differences between the approaches of the Democrats and the Republicans.
So when Delaware Democrat Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 White House race, governments and commoners from around the world wiped their US relations slate clean and began writing fresh post-Trump equations with America.
India, China, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and a string of multilateral bodies – for each of these stakeholders in global diplomacy, Biden’s America is hugely different from Donald Trump’s White House. Here’s taking a look at what Biden-in-Trump-out means for the rest of the world.
Strange as it may seem, India will be bracing for a two-faced approach from the Biden administration. One kind of approach for the Indian public, and a totally contrasting one for the Indian government.
While Washington DC will throw open America’s doors to the average Indian seeking US visa – doors that had been bolted shut by an unwelcome Trump – the new US president will take a hard-line stance in dealing with the government in New Delhi.
Indians awaiting work visas in the US and those looking to make that journey from India are relieved at Trump’s exit. It had been his constant policy to target immigrants – and perhaps a vote-winner among White Americans. But the BJP, India’s ruling party that had been on cozy terms with the Republican Party, isn’t happy at all to see Trump’s exit.
The combination of Biden and his sidekick Kamala Harris is not the face of America that India’s ruling political class had been looking forward to. From the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir to the protests against CAA-NRC to human rights issues – Biden and Harris have both been vocal in their criticism of New Delhi’s policies and programmes.
Over the past few months, both Biden and Harris have called for the restoration of Kashmir’s special status; have stoutly condemned the Indian government’s controversial citizenship amendment act; and have voiced concerns over rights issues and ‘over-saffronisation’.
Their unfriendly stance towards the Indian government (not towards the Indian public) is likely to gain weight and momentum, now that they are in administration. So clearly, the US-bound commoner in India is breathing easy, but the party in power in New Delhi is not.
Biden’s stated position on China could go on to classically demonstrate how empires can carry out the same brand of imperialism in distinctly different ways.
Biden’s Democrats are no fans of Xi Jinping – and they never were. Just like Trump had openly waged war on the Chinese, blaming Beijing for almost every misery that America faced during his four years at the White House, Biden too believes in the need to firmly reign in a fast-growing China.
But there’s a clear difference in approach. The new White House wants to go about the reining-in in an inclusive way. Biden wants to uproot the Trump way of unilaterally fighting against China. He didn’t like Trump’s decision to combat China all by himself. Instead, the Biden camp seeks to build a global coalition of ally nations that would together control Beijing’s rise.
Multilateral pressure tactics, as against a unilateral strategy. The Biden-Harris game plan is to take global opinion on board and fight a diplomatic war on China, not a rowdy Texan duel.
Biden’s manifesto makes it loud and clear. In the fight against China, allies won’t be left feeling left out.
From Beijing’s point of view, they will not want to let their guard down. Yes, Biden will go after them more diplomatically (read: more softly) and in a more sober manner. But he will nevertheless go after the Chinese government.
It remains to be seen if the Biden-Harris administration will roll back some of the punitive trade-related measures that Trump had slapped on China during the peak of their standoff. Time will tell us what’s in store as the Biden vs. Xi slugfest begins.
Biden edging out Trump would have sounded like music to the ears of those in the Iranian administration. Tehran’s biggest nemesis in recent times – Mr. Donald Trump – was gone after having tormented Ayatollah Khamenei’s Shia administration for four long years.
With Biden in charge, Iran is all set to regain lost ground – in the form of the restoration of the JCPOA, commonly known as the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Deal. The Democrat boss has promised that after taking charge of the White House in January 2021, he will bring America back to the Iran deal which Trump had infamously walked away from.
As a result of Biden’s stance to restore US faith in the Iran nuclear deal, the West Asian nation could see some of the economic sanctions imposed on it being rolled back – albeit only if Tehran volunteers to scale down its nuclear ambitions.
Trump proclaiming and celebrating Iranian general Qasem Soleimani’s assassination in a US-led drone strike in Iraq is still fresh on the minds of the Iranian people and the government. An America run by Biden and not Trump is hence a dream-come-true for the oil kingdom.
ISRAEL AND SAUDI ARABIA
While the Palestinians will feel they have been dealt a raw deal during the Trump presidency, they will be living in a fool’s paradise if they expect life to become better during Biden’s reign. The Democrat president is expected to reverse many of Trump’s foreign policy courses. But he is unlikely to undo the new so-called Mideast Peace Deal penned by the Trump administration and brokered by Jared Kushner.
Trump’s two controversial moves in West Asia – to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem, and to broker an unlikely Israel-UAE ceasefire – are both unlikely to be reversed by the Biden administration.
It means Israel’s opponents in the region will get no special attention or privileges from the new US president. Maybe just cosmetic and incremental support, but nothing more. Status quo is likely to remain as far as Israel is concerned. Its clout won’t be diminished just because Biden has dethroned Trump.
Trump’s decision to controversially recognise Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem and in the Golan Heights is likely to also become Biden’s stated Mideast position.
But there’s bad news, however, for the Saudis. The Riyadh-led war in Yemen, which has caused an incalculable number of civilian deaths, will no longer be tolerated by the new US government, as per Biden’s foreign policy pledge. He clearly wants Saudi Arabia to de-escalate the conflict in Yemen, come what may.
Add to that the Biden camp’s displeasure over Riyadh’s handling of the Jamal Khashoggi murder case, and the Saudis could be spending sleepless nights.
The biggest difference that Biden has promised to make on the world stage is the restoration of faith in multilateral platforms. Trump’s America had literally ripped apart respected international missions, such as the Paris Climate Accord, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Trump had pulled the US out of the Paris accord, turning a blind eye towards a planet increasingly roiled by rising carbon emissions. He then cancelled US funding for the WHO, arguing that America would fight the coronavirus pandemic on its own terms and that the global health body had been hijacked by China. Alongside that, Trump had also repeatedly stated that America saw no merit in the role of the NATO in Europe.
Going by Biden’s foreign policy objectives, the new US president is expected to reverse the White House’s position on all three fronts. He wants the US firmly back in the Paris climate pledge, wants to repair the financial relationship with the WHO, and believes in continuing to support the NATO cause.
So it’s not just Americans who had much to lose or gain from a change of guard at the White House. There’s been much at stake for the rest of the world as well.