Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

The next administration will also pursue ‘America First’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- India-U.S. relations and implications of the Presidential elections in the U.S.

The voting trend in the U.S. presidential election indicates significant support for the policies pursued by President Trump. This could impact the policies the next administration pursues.

Why U.S. election matters for the world

  • The world still has need for American leadership.
  • It remains the world’s largest net provider of global public goods.
  • It is the lynchpin of the global multilateral system.
  • If Joe Biden wins, it is possible that America will re-engage with dignity and restore mutual respect in its relations with allies and partners, beginning with the trans-Atlantic alliance.
  • However, the Trump Americans, who are the new political base, will still shape American policy irrespective of who the president is.

‘America first’ is here to stay

  • The American people believe that their education, employment and retirement have been impacted by the immigration, outsourcing and liberal trade policies of past administrations.
  • Trump America does not want more migrants, it will not support the outsourcing of jobs at the cost of their own.
  • It wants a fair deal on trade that does not allow cheaper imports to put small American businesses out of business.
  • Even a Biden administration cannot return America back to the days of open borders and free trade.
  • It might relax some categories of work-visas, but it cannot return to the time when outsourcing was the preferred option for American companies.
  • It might re-engage with the World Trade Organisation but it cannot tear down the trade barriers that Trump has erected in the name of Make in America.

Foreign policy of next administration

  • The Trump Americans do not wish to spend any more taxpayer dollars on foreign wars and they want their boys and girls to come home.
  • They think America’s allies are not carrying their weight and are unfairly living off American contributions.
  • They want their allies and partners to take greater responsibility for peace and security.
  • Biden’s supporters hope that he can reverse the abdication of American global leadership and renew alliances, but as president he may find it difficult to go against the Trump Americans on issues like China, Iran and climate change, without endangering the Democratic Party’s long-term interests.
  • And if Trump is re-elected as the president, it will only be because of his core voter base and it will strengthen his resolve.

Implications for the world

  • Whether or not America withdraws from the world, American leadership, as we know it, might be over.
  • America will become more transactional and less generous.
  • Common values like democracy or multipolarity may be of lesser importance in America’s scheme of things.
  • Whether it is Trump or Biden, the Sino-US relationship will remain complicated and rivalrous.
  • Whether it is Trump or Biden, the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran cannot be restored.
  • Whether it is Trump or Biden, American troops will soon be gone from Afghanistan.
  • There will be less willingness to consider emerging economies as deserving beneficiaries of concessional arrangements.
  • A Biden presidency might also mean a more critical look at the record of not just authoritarian states but also democracies on issues like labour, environment and non-proliferation.

Implications for India

  • President Trump has been good for India in terms of foreign policy, less so in terms of economic policy.
  • But Delhi should equally be prepared for the Trump administration to ratchet up pressure on trade and to tighten rules on immigration.
  • With Biden, India and the US might return to a more balanced re-engagement on trade and immigration, but should be prepared for a more accommodative policy on both Pakistan and China than Trump’s.


Whoever is the next occupant of the White House, the way Americans voted on November 3 will shape American policy and politics for years to come.

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