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Does The New US Administration Signify New Hope For Indo-US Relations?

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Indo-US Relations have played a major role in International Politics for both the countries and even the world. Historically, since the Nehru-Truman talk in 1949, there has been no looking back for both countries. Despite a few bumps on the road, both countries share common interests in fighting terrorism, enhancing Human Rights, increased trade networks, among many others.

2020 Saw A Different Dynamic For US Politics

In 2020, US politics witnessed a very different dynamic. First, the country successfully conducted an election during a pandemic. It second heralded the possibility of electing a female vice-president for the very first time in the history of American politics and executive leadership.

To study how the new US administration under President-elect Joe Biden and discuss the impact of it on the Indo-US relations a panel discussion was conducted by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS)Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), India and the Rising Powers Initiative, Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the George Washington University, Washington DC, the USA on December 11, 2020.

Prof Deepa M. Ollapally, Research Professor of International Affairs and the Associate Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, spoke about the strategic relations between India and the US and the possible changes and modifications that it can witness under President-elect Biden’s administration.

She stressed the important point out here that regardless of the leadership in America, India would continue to be a significant strategic partner for the country primarily because it shares common interests in the Chinese aggression on the Indian frontiers and Indo-Pacific.

Biden administration would seek to have cordial relations with China instead of Trump because none of the parties would want any form of confrontation. At present, it would be interesting to witness how both Prime Minister Modi and President-elect Biden form a network to combat the pandemic and how the politics over the vaccine would unfold.

Biden-Modi Administration  Could Easily Carry Forward The Already Existing Understanding

The idea behind the strategic Indo-US partnership was pushed by the Obama-Biden administration very proactively. It was primarily to secure democracy and the rule of law in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), as was firmed in the Pacific region.

In the Biden-Modi administration, they would have rather little worries carrying forward the already existing regulations and understanding. Biden also inherits many Agreements like the foundational defense arrangements like Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which would be an added advantage in pushing for continued positivity in the bilateral relations between India and the US.

Prof Ollapally pointed out the opportunities and challenges for the Biden administration, which may or may not be beneficial to India. For example, if Biden re-enters the Iran nuclear deal, it could be a major opportunity for Biden to reset the US understanding with other countries: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and Germany who are part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

It will be a matter of time to determine how these opportunities have had an impact on India. Major challenges that remain matters of concern include domestic economic recovery and the post-pandemic nation-building, Trump-era immigration policies, etc.

She concluded her remarks by saying that it would also be interesting to see whether the US and China would be signatories to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), despite being two large countries in the world.

PM Modi Has Been A Pro Investment Leader Throughout His Term

According to Mr. Richard Rossow, Senior Adviser and Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in the pre-COVID period, India and the US had a very successful and cordial relationship as compared to any other country when it came to trade.

Representation Image. Biden also inherits many Agreements like the foundational defense arrangements like the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)

The figures showed a very high profit for both countries, regardless of the claims made by both New Delhi and Washington.   Therefore, the numbers project a good and satisfactory approach towards the economic ties between the two countries.

This is aided by the fact that Prime Minister Modi has been a pro-investment leader throughout his term. He has significantly cut down on FDI and has constantly encouraged foreign companies to invest in India and look for opportunities. This definitely has had an impact on US-India relations.

In the prevailing COVID-era, there has been a slight change in the dynamics of trade between the two countries. India’s rank has fallen from being the 9th largest trading partner of the US to rank 12.

He pointed out that there was still time in the future to decide whether or not India could potentially be a top trading country. However, at present, that dream is farfetched. It will only depend on how foreign companies/investors do their business in India.

India Is A Rising Power In Asia

China is looking forward to expanding its global domination. This definitely poses a great threat to India in Asia and the USA in the world. It is here that the countries need to adapt to the steps that China has been undertaking to achieve its goal. The focus should not be on how much a country is importing or exporting. Rather what one needs to monitor constantly are its manufacturing patterns and its modern techniques and resources.

These are some of the Chinese guidelines for 2025; therefore, to prevent Chinese domination, India and the USA need to adopt such policies. Data flow remains another key aspect of concern with China. But it has to be understood that to prevent domination, data flow needs to be open and transparent between India and the USA. It is undoubtedly the most important aspect and at the core of Indo-US relations.

Mr. Rossow concluded by saying that in the first half of the Biden administration, there is an urgent need for India to roll back the stringent barriers, come closer in the trading sector and mend the existing gaps between India and the USA.

The idea behind the strategic Indo-US partnership was pushed by the Obama-Biden administration very proactively.

“India matters” has been a very prevalent phrase for the longest time. The country is a rising power in Asia. With its advancement in technology, knowledge, and defense techniques, India is undoubtedly a very prominent and important voice in world politics and global affairs.

Therefore, Prof K.P Vijayalakshmi, Professor of US Studies at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, pointed out that regardless of the President in power in the US, India will remain an important strategic power. There have definitely been slight disagreements. However, in the last four leaderships, India has remained a rather important ally.

India’s Interests In Afghanistan Will Be A Talking Point In Indo-US Relations

Several factors bring the US and India together. But according to Prof. Vijayalakshmi, the most significant reason is defense cooperation. Both India and the US believe an immediate need to re-establish and strengthen their defense ties on a much larger level.

In the very recent Doklam standoff concerning India and China, it is believed that the US had a major role to play in bringing peace to the situation only because of the various defense agreements (like the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and BECA between US and India. It is agreements like these that provide India with real actionable intelligence.

Thus, to enable any form of agreement, there must be a dialogue between the two concerned parties to help in the optimum utilization of the agreement in the future. The continued talks and relations between the two countries is the sole reason that the Doklam issue was prevented from turning into a much more violent confrontation with China.

Therefore, it is by no doubt that we can establish the fact that India is not just important to the US for resources. Still, the US is important for India when it comes to defense cooperation and economic prosperity.

The US administration under President-elect Joe Biden strongly believes that India is a key figure in the Indo-Pacific belt. Without India being a part of it, there are not many other countries in the region. Thus, a statement like this from the US government gives India a stronger role over the region.

India’s interests with Afghanistan will also prove a point of discussion between India and the US. Despite several people’s contentions on believing the Taliban, the Indian convoy did end up meeting them at the Doha convention.

Why China Should Not Be Seen As A Threat For Indo-US Relationship

This meeting with India and Afghanistan is important to the US primarily because the Biden administration believes in the systematic withdrawal of troops from the place and, more importantly, a systematic end to the war as the ultimate goal.

Therefore, this matter could be one of the most important topics that India, the Afghan government, and the US administration could collectively deliberate, talk, and debate about and possibly reach a peaceful consensus.

During the question and answer session, Prof Ollapally spoke about how China should not be seen as a ‘threat’ to the US and India relationship despite the open dislike by US President Trump. USA’s interests in India will only be successful if India’s economics is successful and flourishing.

At present, China has many border issues, not just with India but also with Japan, the South China Sea issue, etc. Therefore, she pointed out that due to these growing concerns, this would be the ideal situation for both India and the US to come together as one strong bloc.

Adding on to this, Prof Vijayalakshmi iterated the fact that rather than just India and the US trying to be the pioneers against Chinese aggression, it would be ideal if organizations like the ASEAN is encouraged to participate in the dialogue processes.

India Could Learn From US Agriculture Laws

The main reason for including ASEAN would be to welcome and make them aware of how difficult it is to handle a country like China, which constantly has border issues and has a strong trade relation.

In her closing remarks, Prof. Ollapally says that the new Biden administration has many existing problems to deal with as soon it resumes power. The pandemic, the vaccine rollouts, and the economy’s upliftment from the losses it incurred during and before the pandemic.

Therefore, in the first two years of the administration, India should be assured that there will not be any stringent agreements or deals. However, after two years, the Indian government can expect a few changes and formulations.

As a disadvantage to the Indian government, it could be trouble because Biden has always been a strong supporter of “Democracy at home and abroad.” Therefore, India should gear itself to answer questions related to Kashmir, CAA, and NRC. Prof. Vijayalakshmi pointed out that both governments have many common grounds that they could talk and discuss.

In the agricultural sector, India could draw lessons from US domestic agricultural policies and focus on those areas that converge the interests of the government and the farmers.

Overall the webinar brought to light the need to consistently engage in the issues of contention while keeping the common interests, the rule of law, democracy, and values of pluralism at the heart of bilateral ties between India and America. India should make all efforts to continue to intensify its warm relations with the Biden administration as it did during the Trump administration in the last four years.

The user is a member of the Impact and Policy Research Institute. (IMPRI)

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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