US Democracy appears to have progressively evolved to a higher stage with election of two gritty leaders with inclusive orientation and higher credibility. This could be a watershed moment in the history of representative governance as people in the world’s most powerful democracy have rejected, quite substantially if not wholly, political appeals in the name of identity.
President Trump’s phase was marked with extra-ordinary anxiety and unpredictability. One has to give credit to Prime Minister Modi, who has been probably the only world leader to have enjoyed a warm personal and professional relationship with the outgoing President to negotiate further advancement in Indo- US ties. This is notwithstanding strong position of Trump on trade issue, which was largely influenced by the Trade Representatives Lighthizer. In matters of strategic partnership, Trump era witnessed further consolidation of advances made since the Presidency of George Bush Jr.
The call by the US President elect, during his poll campaign, for higher basic minimum wages or universal access healthcare, education and rule of law or opportunities of life were only steps in direction of a more secure and stable society. While some corporate lobbies and his political rivals had sought to decry such position by branding it as socialist but many serious thinkers on national security have always maintained that high levels of inequality or poor state of HDI are detrimental to long-term national security and overall national cohesion.
The American economy fared relatively better during Trump Presidency but fruits never percolated to large sections of people. Amidst this, incoherent response of the outgoing government to Covid crisis certainly undermined popular trust in the credibility of the government. Nevertheless, President Trump continued to retain trust of large sections of his supporters. But in the end, people at lower end of the strata as well as sections of opinion makers and intelligentsia who were never comfortable with, or approved of, unpredictable and maverick style of President Trump made a common cause to see his ouster.
The electoral victory of the President elect Biden with a “sweeping mandate for change” only reinforces inherent resilience of democracy. Sections of people at home and allies or partners of United States look forward to greater engagement and more mature or predictable response from the White House.
As far as Indo-US friendship is concerned, the momentum since the turn of the century is likely to continue, notwithstanding reservations of the incoming President on certain issues. As President, Biden is more likely to pay heed to institutional wisdom of his government, who have acknowledged importance of India as a long - term strategic partner.
One must remember that friendship between two great nations are neither an outcome and nor a hostage of personal friendship between their leaders. Since the Indo-US ties derive their strengths from shared values and common objectives, there could be some pressure or at least persuasion on strengthening democratic processes and credentials of India while partnership on security and strategic issues are likely to maintain the upward momentum.
The President elect of United States has shown magnanimity and generosity towards supporters of his political opponent. In matters of national security, diplomacy, global governance and strategic ties, he is likely to display similar generosity to go ahead with the best interests of his country, which requires a closer partnership with India. However, India has to guard against negative media influencing perception of US President elect on Human Rights issue or on allegations of crony capitalism in India.
Indian democracy has far too many domestic issues to address and goals to redefine in pursuit of vision for India outlined by the Prime Minister Modi. There seems very little effort to translate his words into action. Ultimately, elections are not about who rules but what is the purpose and objective of such rule. Massive mandate for the Indian government too was for a strategic change but the government in power can very well overlook its own promises. The long term cost would be too high for the country.
Probably, India needs a far more serious restructuring of institutions to pursue universal and equitable access to opportunities and rule of law. These should not be deemed as charity to people. In fact, these constitute life blood of a healthy society and the most critical ingredient of national security.
India will have to reinvent its own political and governance institutions to bolster its governance security capacity. This is the only way to transform its promises and potential of being a formidable global power into reality. This must not be aimed at merely courting partnership or friendship with the United States. The objective must be optimising India’s comprehensive strength. At this juncture of history, the world’s largest democracy is certainly going to find a more sincere and reliable partner in the incoming regime of the world’s most powerful democracy.