Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, will work with India in the Indo-Pacific to ensure no country, including China, “is able to threaten its neighbours with impunity” and will have “no tolerance” for cross-border terrorism in South Asia, if elected president, his campaign said in an expansive agenda released Friday for bilateral relations with India and the welfare of Indian Americans.
A Biden administration also will place a “high priority” on bolstering ties with India, continue to strengthen India’s defence capabilities and bring the United States back into the Paris climate to work with India again to combat climate change, according to the agenda.
On immigration, which has been a major part of India-US relations, Biden will “preserve family unification as a core principle of our immigration system”, increase the number of visas offered for permanent, work-based immigration — Green Cards, overturning the Trump administration’s switch to a merit-based system.
His administration will also exempt from any cap recent graduates of PhD programs in STEM fields, eliminate country limit on Green Cards, which has created a 100-year-long backlog for Indias. He will support reforming the temporary visa system for high-skill — H-1Bs — to protect wages and workers and then their numbers.
The agenda was a first expansive plan released by any presidential campaign yet for aims and goals for relations with India and Indian Americas. And, thus, marked the importance being accorded to India. It was released just hours before a major outreach by senior members of the Biden campaign to the community.
On bilateral relations with India, the former vice-president will bring to the offie years of supporting India. As a senator, the agenda said, Biden had in 2006, said,“My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States” In 2008, he led other Democrats to back the India -US civil nuclear deal. The Obama-Biden administration declared support for India’s claim to permanent membership of the UN Security Council and Declared India a major defence partner.
As president, the agenda said, “Biden believes there can be no tolerance for terrorism in South Asia – cross-border or otherwise”. The reference here was unmistakably to cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, which had also been a sore point with the Obama administration.
On China, the Biden administration will ensure continuity. “A Biden Administration will also work with India to support a rules-based and stable Indo-Pacific region in which no country, including China, is able to threaten its neighbours with impunity.” There was no explicit mention of the border clashes but, once against, the sub-text was clear, aligning with growing bipartisan support for India in these clashes.
“Biden will deliver on his long-standing belief that India and the United States are natural partners, and a Biden Administration will place a high priority on continuing to strengthen the US-India relationship,” the agenda said, adding, “No common global challenge can be solved without India and the United States working as responsible partners.”
It added: “Together, we will continue strengthening India’s defense and capabilities as a counter-terrorism partner, improving health systems and pandemic response, and deepening cooperation in areas such as higher education, space exploration, and humanitarian relief.”
For the estimated 4 million Indian Americans, the Biden vowed adequate representation in the his administration if elected and pointed, as evidence, picking Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. “Our government will reflect the diversity of the United States, and Indian American voices will be included in shaping the policies that impact their communities,” said the agenda.
The Biden administration will address the rising incidents of hate crimes against “Indian Americans of all backgrounds — Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain, and others — (who) have been subjected to bullying and xenophobic attacks”. He will see a legislation to increase the punishment for certain hate crimes that occur in houses of worship and other religious community sites, such as gurdwaras, mandirs, temples, and mosques.
“We cannot leave our faith-based organizations to rely on donations and internal fundraising efforts to guard against deadly attacks. Biden will work with Congress to attain an immediate and substantial increase in direct security grant funding to faith-based organizations,” said the agenda.
The Biden administration will also work with congress to reform the immigration system and find a way to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, including 500,000 from India.