India rejects Biden’s claim ‘xenophobia’ hobbling its economic growth

India has always been a society which has been very open, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar says

Rituparna Chatterjee
Saturday 04 May 2024 14:07 BST
FILE: Joe Biden delivers speech on US economy

India has dismissed US president Joe Biden’s assertion that “xenophobia” was causing the economies of certain South Asian nations to stall.

Foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told a roundtable hosted by The Economic Times newspaper that India’s economy “is not faltering”. India has historically been a society that is very open, he said.

“That’s why we have the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), which is to open up doors for people who are in trouble ... I think we should be open to people who have the need to come to India, who have a claim to come to India,” Mr Jaishankar said, referring to a recent law that allows immigrants who have fled persecution from neighbouring countries to become citizens.

Earlier this week, Mr Biden said “xenophobia” in China, Japan and India was holding back growth in the respective economies as he argued migration has been good for the US economy.

“One of the reasons why our economy’s growing is because of you and many others. Why? Because we welcome immigrants,” Mr Biden said at a fundraising event for his 2024 re-election campaign and marking the start of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

“Why is China stalling so badly economically, why is Japan having trouble, why is Russia, why is India, because they’re xenophobic. They don’t want immigrants. Immigrants are what makes us strong,” he said, kickstarting the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast last month that growth in Asia’s three largest economies would slow in 2024 from the previous year.

The IMF also forecast that the US economy would grow 2.7 per cent, slightly brisker than its 2.5 per cent rate last year. Many economists attribute the upbeat forecasts partly to migrants expanding the country’s labour force.

“India has always been a very unique country ... I would say actually, in the history of the world, that it’s been a society which has been very open ... different people from different societies come to India,” Mr Jaishankar told the newspaper.

The latest remarks from the US president against his key allies India and Japan in Asia come at a time when he is campaigning against Republican opponent Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant stance.

At the same time, Mr Biden is also working to court broad economic and political relations with both nations against rivals China and Russia globally.

Immigration is swiftly becoming a central issue in the November 2024 presidential campaign, which is widely expected to be a Biden-Trump rematch, and each man is seeking to use the border problems to his own political advantage. Mr Biden is batting for legal immigration to aid the American economy.

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