Des Moines (Iowa): A stronger relationship with India would help the US declare its “independence” from China, Indian-American Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy believes and has called for stronger strategic ties with New Delhi, including a military relationship in the Andaman Sea.
At 38, Ramaswamy is the youngest Republican presidential candidate ever. He is currently on a two-day swing to the crucial State of Iowa. On January 15, Iowa would kick off the 2024 Republican presidential primary season.
“A stronger US-India relationship could help the US declare independence from China. The US is economically dependent on China today, but with a stronger relationship with India, it becomes easier to declare independence from that Chinese relationship,” Ramaswamy told PTI in an interview.
A second-generation Indian-American, Ramaswamy founded Roivant Sciences in 2014 and led the largest biotech IPOs of 2015 and 2016, eventually culminating in successful clinical trials in multiple disease areas that led to FDA-approved products, according to his bio.
“The US should also have a stronger strategic relationship with India, including even a military relationship in the Andaman Sea. Knowing that India, if necessary, could block the Malacca Strait where actually China gets most of its Middle Eastern oil supplies. So, these are areas for real improvement in the US-India relationship.
“I think that would be good for the US and that’s exactly why I would lead accordingly,” Ramaswamy, a multimillionaire biotech entrepreneur-turned-politician, said in response to a question.
His polling numbers have gone up after the maiden presidential debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 23.
On the firing line of most of the Republican presidential nominees, in particular former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former vice president Mike Pence and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley; Ramaswamy has suddenly gone up the ladder in polling numbers and in many polls, he is placed second after former president Donald Trump.
In his first interaction with the Indian media, Ramaswamy appeared to be a strong supporter of the growing India-US relationship, which has been a hallmark of multiple presidential administrations across the political aisle since the start of the Bill Clinton Administration.
“I think he (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) has been a good leader for India, and I look forward to working with him on building the US-India relationship further,” Ramaswamy said in response to a question.
During the first Republican presidential debate, his fellow Indian-American challenger Haley told him that he had no foreign policy experience. But Ramaswamy has developed his own vision of America’s foreign policy.
“The major challenge of US foreign policy is that we’re not protecting the homeland. We’re fighting wars that don’t advance American interests while leaving the homeland actually vulnerable. So I think it’s a mistake for the US to continue engagement in Ukraine. That doesn’t advance US national interest,” he said.
“To the contrary, I think it actually is going to impede US credibility on the global stage. The US needs to focus on Communist China. That’s the top threat abroad. And protecting the homeland has to be the top priority at home with actual defence capabilities of the border,” he argued.
“From nuclear defence, from nuclear missile capabilities, super EMP, electromagnetic pulse strikes, cyber-attacks, that’s where we need to focus our attention and then make sure that we’re no longer dependent on our true enemy Communist China for our modern way of life. But many in the establishment of both parties have forgotten that priority; focusing too much on Ukraine instead,” Ramaswamy said.
China, the world’s second-largest economy, remains the biggest source of imports into the US. Last year, the bilateral trade hit an all-time high of USD 690.6 billion. US imports from China reached USD 536.8 billion, accounting for about 17 per cent of its total imports. Exports to China were USD 154 billion, 7.5 per cent of total US exports to the world, according to US media reports.
American companies have huge manufacturing networks in China and rely on Chinese consumers.
Ramaswamy has two sons Karthik, three, and Arjun, one. “They’re really excited about this journey that we’re on…Karthik can say that his dad is running for president. I don’t know if he processes fully what that means. He’s only three years old. But I think they sense it’s something important,” he said when asked about his family.
“It’s a shared project as a family. They are excited whenever we travel on the campaign trail on this bus. They love this bus. But I think on a serious note, I think they know that their parents are doing something that is important and that they’re playing an important role in that. I think that means something to them. I’m grateful for that,” Ramaswamy said.
When asked about the role of Indian Americans in his presidential run, Ramaswamy said: “The fact that I am the kid of immigrants who came to this country with no money and who’s gone on to live the American dream of becoming successful at a young age in the scale that I have, gives me a sense of conviction in this country, gives me a sense of certainty of what is possible in America. Because I have lived it.”
“And I do feel a sense of duty to pass that on to the next generation. So, I do think that being the kid of immigrants who came to this country in search of opportunity gives me that first personal passion for making that available to the next generation.”
Ramaswamy, if tapped as Vice President and later elected, would be the second youngest ever to serve in the role, behind John Breckinridge who served as President James Buchanan’s second in command when he was just 36.
Breckinridge served as President from 1857 to 1861.
Ramaswamy is one of the wealthiest Americans under the age of 40. He studied biology at Harvard before obtaining a law degree from Yale and was briefly a billionaire before a downturn in the stock market shrunk his wealth to just over USD 950 million, according to Forbes.
He was raised in the Hindu faith by his parents but went to a Catholic high school.