Date & Time: October 22, 2020 at 6.30 pm

Webinar: US Presidential Election 2020: Charting the Future of US-India Ties

Proceedings Report

  • About the Event: The Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) organised a webinar on ‘US Presidential Election 2020: Charting the future of US-India ties’ on October 22, 2020.
  • Key Speakers: Mr Richard M Rossow, Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington and Prof G Gopakumar, former Vice Chancellor of the Central University of Kerala and former Head, Department of Political Science, Kerala University. He is also Advisor to CPPR.
  • Dr D Dhanuraj, Chairman, CPPR moderated the session.
  • Mr Goutham KA,Project Associate CPPR introduced and concluded the session with a vote of thanks.

Webinar Summary

  • Speaking about the future of a $500 billion trade partnership aspirations between India and the US, Mr Richard Rossow agreed that it is an interesting target but there lies ambiguity in the timelines. In the last 20 years, he said, the trade sure has increased from $16 billion to $142 billion and the next 10 years will also be prosperous for both the nations in terms of their partnership.
  • Large trade deficits in the balance sheets of both the states have resulted in protectionist trade policies adopted by them. However, pre-COVID, the trade barriers were battled through and the US invested in chosen Indian PSUs and hence goods trade maintained stability.
  • Emphasising on the Indian service sector, Mr Rossow said that technology and financial services are crucial for India’s economic growth but are often ignored in discourses and discussions. Moreover, as both India and the US are service-driven economies, the focus should be more on the service sector and subsequent reduction in protectionist policies.
  • Professor Gopakumar, in his opening remarks, explained what ‘the American soul’ is referred to in both manifestos and what that in turn means for India. He said the very ‘soul’ of America is a peaceful, liberal and democratic society and upholds the principle of multiculturalism and not the Empire state building.
  • In fact, these are also the common shared values between India and the US. India views the United States as a strong democracy and a role model for the rest of the world. India also expects the US to promote pluralism, inclusiveness along with democratic and liberal values.
  • Further, when asked about whether a change in the Presidential candidature will lead to an inevitable change in the ‘soul’ values of America, he said that there sure have been developments across the world, especially in the Indo-Pacific, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, which have to be carefully considered by the incumbent.
  • He argued that the Indo-Pacific regional cooperation would be the most important. QUAD, he argued, will result in a better institutional organisation in the region. At the same time, the US should appreciate India’s development in the region and the geo-political threats and issues, like China’s expansionist policies in the region and Pakistan being a fertile ground for terrorist activities, have to be acknowledged.
  • Discussing what to expect from the forthcoming 2+2 dialogue amidst the election environment, Mr Rossow said that the relations vis-à-vis India would be very much in place. China would be tackled in the same manner irrespective of the incumbent, as it is moving quickly and aggressively.
  • To a question on the H1B visa and how it could be a dominating issue for the Indian voters, Mr Rossow said that the US-India commercial relations are important and there would be less pressure regarding the visa issue post-election as the US companies need and value skilled workers from India and also cross-border digital relations are vital.
  • When asked about the winner of the upcoming US Presidential election, Prof Gopakumar said that Joe Biden would take the lead this time due to Donald Trump’s mismanagement during the pandemic that has affected the economy and health in general, grossly. Additionally, the public opinion has changed massively after the racist treatment meted out in these hard times and the subsequent ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign. Moreover, Kamala Harris is a big factor to attract votes from the minorities and Biden’s commitment to current issues like Climate Change, increasing terrorism, etc. make him an attractive choice. Mr Rossow agreed with Prof Gopakumar as Biden has led in crucial battleground states; however, he fears that like last time the polls may show something but the results could come out completely different. 

The report is prepared by Harman Arora and Sam Thomas, Research Interns of CPPR-Centre for Strategic Studies.

Click here to watch the video recording of the webinar

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