In 2001, in Washington, Joe Biden hosted a lunch for Sonia Gandhi. Manmohan Singh, Murli Deora and I accompanied her. That is the only time I have met Biden.
What is happening to the oldest democracy in the world is mind-boggling, deeply disquieting, unprecedented. Joe Biden emerged as the clear winner. Donald Trump was the clear loser, but he refuses to accept defeat. By inclination and temperament Mr Trump does not genuinely believe in democracy. His many supporters are gun-toting, redneck racists. Many of them have found a hero in Donald Trump, a not so disguised racist himself.
Mr Trump is flouting every tradition of America’s great democracy. He has displayed little interest in governance. He has dismissed dozens of eminent, highly respected members of his Cabinet unceremoniously and with breath-taking frequency. He has grossly mishandled the coronavirus pandemic. Arbitrariness and whimsicality in both appointments and policies have been hallmark of his Presidency.
How did Donald Trump make it to the White House? Two reasons. One: The emergence of Barack Obama on the American national political scene, i.e., becoming a two-term President. This was not acceptable to the rednecks, who looked to Trump as saviour. Two: Hilary Clinton was all but verbally demolished by Trump, who has scant regard for political correctness, courtesy or politeness.
He has instructed his officials not to co-operate with the Biden transition team. How long can Mr Trump carry his defiance of reality? It is anyone’s guess. The amazing fact is that the Republican Party and Republican members of Congress have solidly stood behind him. Another fact. The Supreme Court is packed with “ultra-conservative justices”.
Trump will no doubt vacate the White House on 20 January 2021, but Trumpism will remain alive. He has divided America. He has already declared that he will be a candidate in 2024. Incidentally, Fox News, rabidly pro-Trump, refuses to call Mr Joe Biden, “President-elect”. These are signs of immaturity, irresponsibility and frustration.
In 2001, Sonia Gandhi led a Congress delegation to the United States. In Washington, Mr Joe Biden hosted a lunch for Sonia Gandhi. Manmohan Singh, the late Murli Deora and I accompanied her to the Biden lunch. That is the only time I have met Mr Biden.
In past few days, Mr Joe Biden has spoken to a number of world leaders, but not to Prime Minister Narendra Modi so far. This is not surprising. At Houston last year the Prime Minister praised Mr Trump with excessive enthusiasm.
Where will India figure in Mr Biden’s priorities? Not very high to begin with, is my guess. His first priority will be to apply the healing touch to a wounded and divided America. He will drastically repair the damages Mr Trump did to America’s relations with NATO, the European Union, the WTO, World Health Organization, the United Nations and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Mr Biden has vast experience in diplomacy and will be a much steadier hand at the foreign policy field. The change will be evident both in style and substance. He will be mindful of China’s challenge, her concerns and susceptibilities in a statesman like manner. He will take a closer and more consistent interest in further enhancing Indo-US relations. I doubt if he will be in a hurry to visit India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi should ensure that he appears high on the list of world leaders rushing to Washington. I am not suggesting unseemly haste.
Former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, in a recent article has wisely written, “For India, a Biden administration will be a more predictable and steady partner, rooted in an overall convergence of strategic interests. India will continue to matter to the US in geopolitical contestation with China…”
Mr Biden will or could push us on Kashmir and our not so inspiring record on human rights. In India glaring inequality persists.
On the whole Mr Biden will come as blessing after the chronic erraticism of Mr Donald Trump.
Bihar election results brought several surprises. The NDA coming number one, Nitish Kumar’s stature being eroded and Chirag Paswan’s failure.
What of Congress? The less said the better. Unfortunately the Gandhis are passé.