Obama is not a balm for India

Why does India, which likes to call itself a rising power, need to hinge its happiness on the pleasure of the USA?

Sanjay Kumar November 02, 2010
It’s festival season in India, with Diwali, the festival of lights, just round the corner. This year, the annual event seems to be overshadowed  by the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama.

I don’t remember this kind of excitement occurring with regard to a visit by any other foreign head of state. Today, no news bulletin is complete unless there is some mention of Uncle Sam. Both Hindi and English  newspapers are full of stories describing not only the political significance of the trip, but also bits of Obama’s schedule. We know where he will be staying, what he will be eating and which music group will be performing at the dinner that the Indian president will host in his honour.

This obsession with Obama puzzles many people.  It seems as if our well being and future growth depends upon keeping the supposedly most powerful man in the world happy. The government ensured the passage of the Nuclear Liability Bill in parliament well in advance of the arrival of this most important guest.

A sensible mind fails to understand why India, which likes to call itself a rising power, needs to hinge its happiness on the pleasure of the USA. Why do we fail to demonstrate our confidence as a rising economy which can deal with America on an equal footing?

One section of the intelligentsia is smugly satisfied that the American president is skipping Pakistan in his tour of South Asia, thereby demonstrating his greater strategic proximity with India. This group seems to view this as a case of snubbing Pakistan in return for harbouring terrorists.

Another group of commentators, however, are not happy with the recent, top-level "strategic dialogue" and the $2 billion in military aid which the US recently pledged to our northern neighbour. They feel that the US should appease India by showing greater generosity and proposing its name for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. They believe Obama should review his policy regarding outsourcing, which has affected Indian firms and IT professionals, and ensure greater investment in the Indian market.

But such opinions are outdated and reflect a mindset not free from the colonial past and not in sync with the new India, which aspires for a new future. Today, America has lost its vision and its moral confidence and is turning against its own values of championing a free economy, meritocracy and liberalisation. It now talks of controlling immigrants, protectionism and regulating the free flow of intellectuals. American society is becoming pessimistic.

On the other hand, India today is a place where hope rules, where meritocracy has a firm voice, where the Raj has become a thing of the past, where free trade is an economic mantra.

As reality has changed, the parameters for dealing with America should also alter. We should not appear to be the meek recipients of economic largess and words of assurance from a so-called superpower. America needs India for its survival, far more than India needs the US.

The other day, it was enlightening to hear Sonu, my driver, talk about India’s hype over Obama’s visit. He said that although America talks of peace in South Asia and a harmonious settlement in Kashmir, it still sells arms to both countries. He questioned whether the western world is even interested in a stable subcontinent.

However, this kind of common sense is rarely seen. The Pakistani establishment believes that it is a strategic partner of the US, as does India. Both states live in a make-believe world, and have forgotten about their shared past and the possibility of a prosperous future.

The disconnect between foreign politicians and the rising Indian state is evident in the way we are reacting to the Obama visit. Our so-called free media has become a tool of the establishment. We rarely hear critical voices and never have any critical analyses of India’s relationship with the US. It feels as if the media is trying to manufacture consent on behalf of the government.

Such thoughts make me restless. There is a gap between what we want to see and what we actually see.

If only I could shake off such thoughts and enjoy the revelry of the wonderful festival of Diwali.
WRITTEN BY:
Sanjay Kumar The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics. He tweets as @destinydefier (https://twitter.com/destinydefier).
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (10)

Ajay Mittal | 10 years ago | Reply Sanjay your are wrong in saying "This obsession with Obama puzzles many people. It seems as if our well being and future growth depends upon keeping the supposedly most powerful man in the world happy. The government ensured the passage of the Nuclear Liability Bill in parliament well in advance of the arrival of this most important guest. A sensible mind fails to understand why India, which likes to call itself a rising power, needs to hinge its happiness on the pleasure of the USA. Why do we fail to demonstrate our confidence as a rising economy which can deal with America on an equal footing? " US is a super power and it is right to be obsessed at this stage of India's timeline when even every fraction of technology exchange will help India many times over and India needs to seize this "business' opportunity as this window "of favorable consitions" may not last long. World never operates in an idealistic manner..selling arems to both countries (after all they demand..India is more intelligent as it distrubutes its eggs in amny baskets)..why shouldn't they sell arms and planes if it boosts their economy. Fools are always taken advantage of, what's surprising about that. What is awesome is that India knows how to extract as well as manage the risks. It has managed succesfully China, Pakistn and US in the past while maintaining good relations with Iran, Russia, Israel, it is having all these othyer countries eating out of its hand. Come on India desrves to play its games. And it is required too. Paksitan in our neighbor has non-stop injected and cultivated India-centric terrorists and tried to partner with China against India. After 60 years, India does need to neutralize Pakistan. Pakistan is a real pain in the butt as it has not only harmed India through terrorism but becoming more an dmore unstable eventually causing side effects of huge significance on India. It is a sitting duck waiting to be taken over by China or US. China must already consider it its backyard just as Pakistan wnats to consider Afgh. its backyard. Such 'tight' relation with US (even if make believe) is important to keep China in check. However India hasn't fallen to US temptations either in taking adverserial stand against China. China will relaize that India doesn't succumb to any pressures and can be indeed a very reliable friend and busines partner that believes in mutual benefit. So nothing wrong in feting US President. He is World's Predicent by virtue of being President of Super Power country. We also know tow to CHina and sing lullabies to China even when it armtwists us. We do it for diplomatic gameship not because we have to.
Nish | 10 years ago | Reply There is so much to talk about the business and deals that have been signed in 3 days but you chose to write a very easy article full of nonsense. Do some homework and try to find out the real details, all you have written so far was already in news headlines. I think you should have gone in deatils of these headlines and checked why there was so much discussion. It seems you are like you driver who doesn't understand why there is so much talk and discussion about the deals and the visit. As a columnist, you have the responsibility to bring out the truth but it seems you yourself do not understand why he was here and why everybody was talking about it or you are just feeding the readers which you think want to read just what they want to read. We know who your primary readers are?
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