Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate in US Presidential Elections 2020 has sparked debates and discussions among the Americans especially in context of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Senator Kamala Harris has been the face of various historic landmarks as she became the first woman ever to be San Francisco’s District Attorney, first African-American woman to hold such post in California and first South Asian senator of all America. The latest landmark achieved by half-Jamaican and half-Tamil Kamala is becoming the first Black woman and first American of Indian descent to hold a major party-ticket.
The centuries of immigration has transcended in today’s India as a large genetic pool. The phenomena of migration in the contemporary Globalized World coupled with inclusive Indian history have created a gigantic Indian diaspora. Whenever someone from that unmatched diaspora comes into International headlines for various good reasons, Indians tend to associate their essentialist identities.
The invasive foreign policies of China have desperately pushed the neighboring countries into defensive mode and India being its immediate neighbor is looking desperately at US for support. The plummeting approval ratings of Donald Trump make it likelier for Biden-Harris combination to capture power in the upcoming elections. The anticipation in the air and the Writings on the wall has proliferated with the nomination of Kamala Harris carrying Indian genes to enact against Sino-expansionist regime.
Small Nationality Complex
It is believed that the sense of ownership towards foreign citizens having Indian descent is a fluorescent sign of Small Nationality Complex. This is an odd feature particularly in a nuclear-powered nation which houses the second largest population in the World. The same has happened in the past when Sunita Williams held the record of Highest Spacewalk time for women. The strong sense of nostalgia and former glory surrounds this particular tendency among the common men. The prevailing of essentialist identity over constructivist notion of identity has happened whenever the narrative of Indian nostalgia has been reborn. The recent incident of Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee (American Citizen) receiving the Nobel Prize for Economics has poked the similar glands of Indian ownership of its descendants.
The expectation that the Caste, Class, Ethnicity, Religion and other previous identities will have a telling effect in someone who has been born and brought up in a foreign nation can never be feasible. It is to be understood that the statements previously or currently made by Kamala Harris regarding India is not politically directed towards the Indians. Rather, these words are directed towards American passport holders of Indian descent who will vote for her to provide her an advantage over her Republican counterparts.
What is it that makes Indians excited regarding the Nomination of Kamala?
In a speech given to an Indian-American audience in New York, in 2018, Kamala Harris reinvigorated her memories of childhood in India and the impact it had on her. The progressive values inherited from her Maternal Grandfather shaped her ideas about gender and race. In various interviews and speeches she acknowledged about her ancestral Tamil roots.
The people of Painganadu Thulasendrapuram near Mannargudi haven’t forgotten Kamala too as posters was put up wishing the current favorite child of village utmost success in her upcoming endeavors.
Further South in Rameshwaram, special prayers were made by priests in Ramanathaswamy temple wishing the success of Kamala. Ananthapadmanabha Sharma, a priest of the Ramanathaswamy temple was quoted, “Kamala Harris- She is of Indian descent, she should win the elections and also be in favor of India”.
The recent India-China border conflict at Pangong-Tso has opened up newer vulnerabilities of Indian State in terms of maintaining its territorial sovereignty. With the dual threat of China and Pakistan and conflicted border regions India is now looking for desperate support from a global superpower. The dynamics of Uni-Polar World has significantly changed with the recent rise of China and the ravaging pandemic. India has been an immediate sufferer of that as the country is battling hard on triple front in terms of maintaining sovereignty, dodging through the health-crisis and nursing a dipping economy.
The consensus among the citizen about rejecting Chinese goods and recreating a supply-chain has to be backed up by the support of Global superpowers. The nomination of Kamala as the running mate of Joe Biden obviously has sparked a unit of hope among the common citizen of India. Even though, the Indian leadership has been assuring to the looming threats of a three-front situation, the expectations keep rising among the general intelligentsia.
Why it can be flawed to expect something from Kamala?
Multiple reasons have been traced by Political Analysts regarding the excitement among the Indian citizens. The first thing that is needed to be understood is if she holds the Vice-President post in US, then she will be elected by the votes of US taxpayers. Therefore, it will be living in fool’s paradise to expect that she will consider the Indian foreign policy interests.
As human rights activist, Kamala Harris has been vocal about India’s ruling party’s decision regarding the revocation of Special Status allotted to Jammu and Kashmir through the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. Among the US administration, only she has staunchly criticized the annexation of Kashmir and declared herself as “a friend of Kashmiri People”. Her radical opinions about Kashmir definitely ring skepticism among the ruling BJP Government.
In a recent interview, her Uncle G. Balachandran said, “Kamala will always hold human rights and public goods above all”. Her definite interests in Global Human Rights Issues extend to Kashmir too where accusations against the Indian Government has been severe regarding the violation of human rights. In context of the Black Lives Matter movement, Kamala’s candidature has been hailed as a masterstroke by Democrats according to the US media. If the Democrats are triumphant, then only time will tell how much impact Kamala’s views will have on US-India relationship.
US reluctance on Global Issues
Since, the end of Cold War, the major agenda of US had been “War on Terrorism”. The agenda of George W. Bush had been carried forward by his successor Barack Obama. Inheriting two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Global Economic Crisis, Obama’s Presidential campaign was majorly focused on his anti-war campaigns. Obama wanted to change the interventionist foreign policies taken up previously under the Bush administration and removal of troops from Iraq was a significant footstep towards that direction.
The dissipation of America’s “Big Brotherly Syndrome” under Barack Obama created a significant void in the Global Power Dynamics alluring other forces to become hegemonic. The polar opposite policies of Obama’s successor Donald Trump with the common denomination of “War against Islamic Terrorism” were unable to fill up the previously engineered void. The unprecedented rise of Xi-Jinping led China was out-of-syllabus for the Trump-administration given the World-wide health and economic crisis.
The shift in the global power balance now raises important questions regarding the role of USA. Apart from the frequent ramblings against China and calling COVID-19 ‘Chinese Virus’, Trump has shown reluctance towards acting against the expansionist activities of China on the South-China sea, Pacific Ocean and Indo-China border. Biden’s no tolerance stance towards the Chinese invasions is reassuring but, from an Indian perspective finding distinctions between Trump’s and Biden’s positions are extremely difficult.
Therefore, Kamala Harris has to be established as an American in the beginning to start a conversation about what are expected from her. The Indo-US relations will depend on the global context as it always has been no matter the genetic bonds shared by Kamala. The unwarranted expectations and jubilancy among Indian minds will only lead to despair and disappointment. The illusion of Kamala Harris being Pro-India needs to be dissolved as she is neither Pro-India, nor Anti-India. She is Pro-America.