On Wednesday (8 April), Bernie Sanders, who was running his second campaign for the Oval Office, dropped out of the race, thus leaving former vice-president Joe Biden as the obvious nominee of the Democratic Party.
Sanders made his decision to quit after the Wisconsin primary earlier this week admitting over a live stream address that his path to victory was "virtually impossible".
While polling reports predicted another loss for Sanders in the Wisconsin primary, the 78-years-old, long-time Democrat, blamed his inability to host massive rallies in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Sanders’ two campaigns, first in 2016, have been largely focussed on single-payer healthcare, eliminating student and medical debt, making college education more accessible, and to boost the economy to tackle the issue of climate change.
Sanders had also been vocal on numerous occasions about issues in India relating to Kashmir, religious tolerance, and minorities.
Given how foreign policy forms the nucleus of any presidency in the United States, and the improving ties between India and the US since President Donald Trump’s election to the White House, the dropping out of Sanders comes as good news for India.
In his attempt to woo the American Muslim section of the electorate, Sanders has made repeated statements that question India’s national interests in Kashmir, and against Pakistan.
Sanders, in August 2019, while addressing a significant chunk of Muslim Americans at the 56th annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America in Houston, Texas, spoke about India revoking Article 370 and called India’s actions in Kashmir "unacceptable". He argued that the communications blockade be lifted from the state, thus being the first presidential candidate to do so.
Attacking India for imposing a lockdown, he further argued that Kashmir’s autonomy was threatened by the government crackdown on dissent and also hindering essential medical care for the people in the state. The speech was made in front of more than 6,000 people.
In September, Houston, Texas, hosted the ‘Howdy Modi’ event, which witnessed the participation of more than 50,000 American Indians and NRIs (non-resident Indians). In an opinion for Houston Chronicle on the same day, Sanders remarked that the event came at a time when there was a deafening silence on the issue of human rights in Kashmir.
While stating that Pakistan had indeed played a negative role in Kashmir, Sanders wrote that the US President must favour a humanitarian approach in Kashmir along with a peaceful resolution backed by the United Nations that takes into consideration the will of the people in the state, thus indirectly arguing for India to withdraw its forces from Kashmir.
In the same piece, Sanders attacked Trump for ignoring issues of human rights across the world.
Sanders’ views have been endorsed by other Democrats like Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, all of them being critical about India revoking Article 370.
All these Democrats have been closer to Sanders than they are to Biden, and thus, Sanders’ exit from the race will certainly dilute the irrational criticism India has been receiving for pursuing its national interests in the state.
Earlier this year, when Trump, on his tour to India, refused to speak against the violence that was prevailing in the national capital due to the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, Sanders slammed the US President for choosing to stay quiet.
In a tweet, Sanders remarked that India was home to more than 200 million Muslims, and attributed the death of 27 people to anti-Muslim mob violence.
Sander’s anti-India rhetoric has not been limited to politics, however.
When Trump, in his address at the Motera stadium, announced a defence deal worth more than $3 billion which included state-of-the-art military helicopters, Sanders took to Twitter to slam Trump for the deal and instead suggested that the two countries should partner on climate change.
Sanders, who was one of the strongest contenders for the nomination until late February, found his campaign derailed after successive losses since the Super Tuesday on 3 March.
Interestingly, Sanders recovered from a heart attack in October last year to run his second campaign. In order to secure a nomination, a candidate requires 1,991 delegates. Biden already has more than 1,200 on his side.
While Trump’s re-election to the White House will largely depend on his efforts to curb the spread of the virus in the country in the next few weeks, and getting the economy back on track, India will find a relatively saner voice in former vice-president Joe Biden in the Oval Office, assuming he gets there.
For now, the good news is that India won’t have to deal with the wild possibility of President Sanders.
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