On June 8, 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a joint session of Congress. I was in the room as Modi, reflecting on the United States-India relationship, said “the constraints of the past are behind us and foundations of the future are firmly in place”. Also present — in fact, sitting right behind Modi — was then-vice president Joe Biden. In the years since, Biden has generally echoed Modi’s positive message.
When it comes to India, however, today’s Biden is at a critical juncture. In front of him, he has an opportunity to further build on Modi’s “foundations of the future” in the form of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. But if he caves to Democratic demands to sanction India for its purchase of a Russian defence system, he could also undermine all of these foundations. It’s imperative Biden use his presidential powers to defend the US-India relationship.
In March, the Biden administration brought leaders from the four Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries — India, Japan, Australia, and the US — together for a summit on their shared priorities. The group, affectionately known as “the Quad”, was originally centred around combating the after-effects of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and was later formalised in 2007. In recent years, however, its priorities have been crystalised by China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific. Biden alluded to this dynamic in an address to Quad leaders, stressing that “a free and open Indo-Pacific is essential to each of our futures”.