Global Indians: Will Indians fare any better in America’s Biden era?

Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: More than five lakh aspiring Indians are looking forward to going to the USA on various visas and try to settle down there once President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office on January 20, 2021, and enters the White House some 44 days from now.

Recently, Biden had referred to some of his distant relatives who had settled down in Maharashtra.

So, Indians getting some more favor in the US looks likely. Will it, however, be as easy?

For one, the incumbent, President Donald Trump is still in no mood to concede defeat. He is apparently digging in for a long legal haul and win from the courts what he lost in the ballot box. Off and on, he continues to accuse the Democrats of “voter fraud’, despite some courts rejecting his claims. He continues to hope for some miracle from the courts to make him continue in a second term. But, reluctantly, this week he began to allow transition and transfer of power, although indirectly.

For another, despite the vague promises the Biden team made, Indians are unlikely to benefit much by way of getting many work visas. The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a wave of unemployment in the US and left an underperforming economy and fresh, unforeseen challenges. The new President will have to first tackle these domestic problems rather than inviting a ‘cheaper’ workforce from overseas.

Russia and Brazil are yet to congratulate Biden as they are hoping for a court miracle to favor Trump. China took time to greet Biden. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also congratulated Biden and his deputy, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla had recently said the change of guard will not affect the US-Indian relationship.

Even Biden had made it “very clear that he values a strong India-US strategic partnership”, and this is common to both Biden and US President Donald Trump, Shringla said.

Clearly, be it Trump or Biden, the emerging geopolitical situation is expected to further cement US-Indian ties and cooperation.

And how are the Indian-Americans going to be impacted in the Biden-Harris Administration?

Apart from Kamala Harris, some more Indian-Americans are likely to find key posts in the Biden team. They include Vivek Murthy and Arun Majumdar. A number of Indian-Americans have also won seats in the House of Representatives on either Democratic or Republican tickets.

Dr. Murthy, a former US Surgeon-General, was the top advisor to Biden on Covid-19. Now he is expected to be appointed as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Another key pick in the Biden team could be Arun Majumdar, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, who is the top advisor to Biden on energy issues.

A third Indian-American probable is Harvard University economist Raj Chetty who advised Biden on economic issues.

The President-elect had recently appointed more than 20 Indian-Americans in his agency review teams (ARTs) that are responsible for evaluating the operations of the key federal agencies in the current administration to ensure a smooth transfer of power to the successor’s team. He may pick up some of them to serve his Administration.

They include Rahul Gupta, who is currently the Team Lead for Office of National Drug Control Policy, Kiran Ahuja, Team Lead for Office of Personnel Management, Puneet Talwar in the Department of State ART, Pav Singh for National Security Council and Office of Science and Technology, and Arun Venkatraman in the Department of Commerce.