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Home >News >World >Joe Biden likely to appoint Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State – what will it mean for India and the world?

MUMBAI : Even as Donald Trump refuses to go gently into the night, US President-Elect Joe Biden’s team have been working on putting together his cabinet.

Biden is expected to make his initial announcement on Tuesday.

The New York Times, along with several other publications have stated that Antony Blinken is set to become Biden’s Secretary of State.

Jake Sullivan, one of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s closest aides, is likely to named NSA, while Linda Thomas-Greenfield is likely to be tapped up as Ambassador to the United Nations.

An old and stable foreign policy hand, who has last seen working as a CNN analyst, Blinken was present during the iconic 2011 picture of the Obama administration huddled in the Control Room.

He is so close to the President-Elect that he was labelled Biden’s ‘alter ego’ in a profile by Financial Times, which also quotes a former European official stating that he was “more low-key and collegiate than his predecessors" and was “not Henry Kissinger, in a good and bad way".

His appointment could point to the US taking back the space abdicated by it in international institutions and re-working global alliances which has given an upper-hand to Beijing.

Most recently, he served as the US Deputy Secretary of State from 2015 to 2017 and before that as Deputy National Security Adviser from 2013 to 2015.

Born to Jewish parents, his father Donald Blinken was a former investment banker who was the Ambassador to Hungary from 1994-1997 under the Clinton Administration.

His stepfather, Samuel Pisar, was an aide to JFK, and survived the Holocaust, braving the horrors of Dachau and Auschwitz. He went to high school in Paris, got his undergraduate degree from Harvard and a Law Degree from Columbia.

Before working in government, he practiced law in New York and Paris and briefly worked as reporter for The New Republic magazine.

He has also written frequently about foreign policy in several leading publications. Blinken’s earliest challenge will be reversing Trump’s ‘America First’ policy and returning America to global agreements reneged by the former administration and also dealing with a belligerent China.

In July 2020, Blinken told Bloomberg Television: “The first thing is we have to dig out from a strategic deficit that President Trump has put us in. President Trump has helped China advance its own key strategic goals." However, Blinken is no dove when it comes to China, even though he stated that it would be a mistake to fully “decouple from China", calling it “unrealistic and ultimately counter-productive".

He did add that Biden would “step up defences of Taiwan’s democracy by exposing Beijing’s efforts to interfere".

In July 2020, he said: “When it comes to values, our abdication of standing up for our own values and in Asia and with regard to China’s actions, has, I think, given the government in Beijing, a sense of greater impunity when it comes to cracking down on democracy in Hong Kong or for that matter, dealing and abusing the human rights of Uyghurs in China."

He also stated that China could “assert its own leadership in international institutions" at the expense of the US because of its “withdrawal which has left an opening for China to fill".

Blinken, Biden and India

The commentariat and India-US watchers have long wandered what a Biden administration would mean for India, given the bonhomie between the current Modi government and Trump’s administration.


In July 2020, Pakistani newspaper The Dawn had reported that Biden as president ‘would raise the Kashmir issue’, which one US-India watcher classified as ‘mischievous reporting’ since Blinken never explicitly says that, as would be evidenced by perusing the transcript of the conversation at the Hudson Institute.

Commenting on the CAA-NRC protests and Jammu and Kashmir, Blinken had actually said: “Now, you’re right, we obviously have challenges now and real concerns, for example, about some of the actions that the government has taken particularly in cracking down on freedom of movement and freedom of speech in Kashmir, some of the laws on citizenship but you’re always better engaging with a partner and a vitally important one like India, when you can speak frankly and directly about areas where you have differences even as you’re working to build greater cooperation and strengthen the relationship going forward. That would be the approach and again, I think we’ve seen evidence that it works."

In the same conversation, Blinken states that deepening the relationship with India was a “very high priority’. He points out that it was important for the future of the Indo-Pacific and vital to “tackle some of these big global challenges".

Blinken also points out that that relationship with India was a bipartisan “success story, going back to the Clinton administration, the Bush administration and then the Obama-Biden administration".

He also notes that the Obama-Biden administration made concrete progress across a series of initiatives to bolster US-India relations including making India a “so-called major defence partner" which would allow it to be treated on par with American allies and partners.

In fact, Blinken notes: “Vice President Biden was one of the leaders of the effort to convince our partners in India and they did. I think that’s a reflection, again, of the fact that we cannot solve common global challenges without India as part of the deal."

India's relationship with the US has been warming since the end of the Cold War, and emerged even stronger after the 1998 Pokhran Nuclear tests leading to the signing of the Indo-US Nuclear treaty and an alliance which has grown strength to strength, irrespective of the administration in power.

To repeat what former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said at the 2020 Jaipur Literature Festival: “India and US have been very vibrant democracies since they got independent. Sometimes, despite that, they were still on opposing sides of the fence. When interests diverge, democracy may dampen antagonism. In the current phase it is strengthening the convergence."

The gains in Indo-US Dosti made during the Trump regime are unlikely to be thrown away by the Biden Administration, and Blinken’s appointment suggests that India and US will try to make the best of a new global order where Xi’s China looms large as a Leviathan antagonist which doesn’t consider anyone else its equal.

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