The victory of Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the US presidential election caused a surge of enthusiasm in the Indo-Pacific region (IPR). Washington's allies and partners in the region raced to congratulate Biden on his election success and declared their desire to restore good relations with America that were destroyed during Donald Trump's presidency.
However, America's traditional IPR allies were outperformed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who congratulated Biden on his victory as soon as the latter surpassed the mark of 270 electoral votes and became almost inaccessible to Trump. Note that Modi did this even earlier than the leaders of Japan and South Korea. In his message, the Indian PM expressed hope that under Biden, relations between India and the United States would be elevated to higher standards.
By the way, the Prime Minister of India snatched an opportunity to recall the Indian origins of the future Vice-President Kamala Harris, adding that this will hopefully serve as an extra incentive for rapprochement between Washington and New Delhi after the upcoming power shift in the United States in January next year. It is entirely possible that this factor, although probably not worth exaggerating, will be responsible for building future US-Indian relations under President Biden.
With a certain degree of confidence, we can assume that relations between New Delhi and Washington will largely depend on the new administration's limit as regards its confrontation with China, and whether American allies and partners who seek pragmatic relations with China will have to follow the American policy of "containing" Beijing. The suspense may get more intense of how the US agenda will be set with IPR countries as a whole and with India in particular. It's no secret after all that President Trump primarily needed New Delhi to stand up to Beijing.
It should be noted here that whatever the nuances of future US-Chinese relations are, Beijing will most likely remain the United States' major challenge under President Biden. And that being the case, Washington will still need such an important and strong country in the region as India. It is important to bear in mind that New Delhi is well aware of why Washington seeks to get closer to India and what is going to ensue from this.
Yes, India has recently become noticeably closer to the United States, especially in the military field. Thus, in late October this year, New Delhi took another step towards a military alliance with the United States. Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and then US Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed the so-called Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). And all of this is clearly because of China, which has very tense relations with India over border disputes in the Himalayas that aggravated a lot last summer. Washington actively exploited this factor under Trump.
Moreover, the United States seems to be well aware of the advantages provided by India's maritime geography, and is trying to instrumentalize this fact, namely to carry out naval operations against China. This is evidenced by the recent Malabar exercises in the Bay of Bengal involving the navies of the United States, Japan, India and Australia. Washington believes that the drills will help consolidate the four countries and gradually turn it into an "Eastern NATO" that can virtually confront China in this region.
One cannot rule out that the new US administration will keep trying to inveigle India into the framework of its military actions in the IPR. At the same time, it is fair to assume that under Biden the White House will step up economic factors in relations with New Delhi. Some experts tend to believe that Biden will try to revive the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which replaced the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and which America quit in 2018 at Donald Trump's behest. The revival of the CPTPP is believed to allow Washington reduce China's trade and economic influence in the region.
Experts also do not rule out that Joe Biden may invite India as the world's fifth economy to join the CPTPP, as well as a number of countries from the China-initiated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes 15 countries of the ITR. The respective British Economist magazine called the RCEP agreement a victory for China and a defeat for India and the United States.
However, India itself refused to take part in this agreement for fear that its own industry could suffer from the dominance of Chinese imports. The door to RCEP remains open for India. However, its relations with China have recently deteriorated on several fronts, which hardly implies that New Delhi will join this agreement, where the leadership belongs to Beijing. In this regard, the possible invitation for India to the CPTPP from the United States may be a kind of compensation for the RCEP to New Delhi aimed at damaging China's interests.
At the same time, we must assume that the US desire to play off India and China against each other is primarily aimed to get under the skin of Russia, who has both these countries as strategic partners. Let's not forget that India and China are members of such heavyweight international associations as the SCO and BRICS. The Indian leadership seems unlikely to break with these organizations for the sake of rapprochement with Washington. Neither will it seek to join any military alliance, cherishing its image as a neutral country and a leader of the Nonaligned Movement, the principles of which India has been cleaving to for almost 60 years.
It also seems that New Delhi learned the lessons of history when the United States sought to deal its own challenges through the third parties. Suffice it to recall how Washington used discrepancy between Moscow and Beijing in its fight against the Soviet Union. Everyone remembers what has become of it. Beyond a shadow of doubt India can think for itself and will determine whom to be friends with and how...