Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate has been rightly hailed as historic: If elected, she would be the first female vice president of the United States as well as the first Black woman to hold that office. But what’s getting less attention in global media is the fact that Harris will also be the first vice president of South Asian heritage—and to Indian Americans like myself that is inspiring but also instructive.
How might Harris’s South Asian identity shape a Biden administration’s foreign-policy agenda? To tackle global problems, the United States needs a leader with a global mindset. As the daughter of an immigrant from Chennai, in southern India, it’s likely that Harris will share a perspective on foreign policy that looks at the world’s two largest democracies as critical allies. And while that lens of partnership could play a role in U.S.-China relations, on matters related to immigration, technology, trade, and defense, it will perhaps be most important in confronting the urgent threat of climate change, a challenge that previous U.S. governments have not achieved enough on and that the United States has regressed on under the administration of President Donald Trump.