What’s for India, Mr. President?

Obama’s election has been a historic day for America: firmly placing them as the greatest democracy in the world! It was Martin Luther King’s dream which has transcended into reality. Hope is back in American hearts. It is a truly momentous occasion for not only the African America but for America itself, a day to celebrate. It was just 44 years ago that Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act and he had said that he probably lost his party the elections for a long time to come. And today, we have Barack Hussein Obama as the president of the USA! Seeing tears roll down Rev. Jesse Jackson’s eyes, during Obama’s address was a message as to how far the African-American community has come. Rev. Jackson had tried to run for President in 1980, was the First African American to do so, but failed to secure nomination. The elections are over, wonderful result for Obama, but let us not disregard John McCain! It’s only a statesman who could come up and say those words he said for his opponent in Phoenix, Arizona.

There are a few pertinent questions the election of Obama has raised for India. Will the relations between the two countries go as smoothly as they have been going lately under George W. Bush? Perhaps, they won’t be as smooth as they were under cowboy Bush. Obama will definitely bring about a lot of protectionist measures around the economy. Although, a lot depends on his interaction with his advisors, most of his speeches don’t sound for the outsourcing industry! John McCain on the other hand is a vehement opponent of protectionism, and doesn’t mince words in saying the same. India could have expected better results under John McCain on the issues of Farm Subsidies, where USA and the G-20 headed by India, China and Brazil are on a stand-off.

A lesson has to be learnt by the businesses here, that they have to diversify beyond USA! Over dependence is not great. USA is Indian software industry’s biggest customer, so any change in policy will have a direct impact on us. That although is not a real enough reason to be wary of him. After all he can’t arbitrarily stop all the cost cutting measures. Considering USA is going through recession, it makes little sense to get in measures that increase costs for their industry.

Critics may think that Obama’s comments on Kashmir are innocent. We shouldn’t take his comments so lightly. It is a sign that the Indian diplomats should start doing their homework already. Bush did not step one foot on the issue, but Obama will press both countries. Considering USA’s situation with Pakistan and the importance of their support, Kashmir is going to be back on the USA’s radar! India had worked hard towards shifting the focus of the international community from the issue and grow out of the hyphenated India-Pakistan issue. Pakistan’s support is vital for USA in their fight against Al Qaeda. Although there are more positive ways in which we can look at his statements. Like there are some who believe his comments basically hint at pressuring Pakistan to stop concentrating on the Kashmir issue and start looking at their major threat which is fundamentalism at home! Nonetheless it would be wise for our diplomats to chalk out the strategy for all eventualities. The scope for co-operation to combat Islamic fundamentalism which is rooted in Pakistan will get a shot in the arm, as Pres. Obama has admitted the need to exterminate terror from Pakistani soil. He also wants to divert troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to check the growth of Al Qaeda in there.

The nuke deal between the two countries might come under the scanner. The Democrats are vocal supporters of non-proliferation and will surely put the CTBT for ratification. Once this happens, the hand is first going to fall on China. And once that happens, India is sure to feel the heat somewhat. But the Obama camp is also expected to push for stringent environment protection guidelines bypassing the Kyoto protocol. Since nuclear fuel is a clean alternative, there are going to be contradictions to the non-proliferation agenda. The matters will only be clearer once the President sets his priorities.

The major areas for future cooperation between India and USA which are going to be enhanced as it had already under President Bush is in terms of Strategic Cooperation…USA needs a counter balance to China, and there is no better partner than India to do the job. USA’s support to India is going to be vital in the international arena. India in turn should keep pushing for the seat in UNSC (United Nations Security Council). Though Obama might not support India’s candidature to the G-8 like McCain; he knows India’s importance is on a greater plane and a new power order is emerging. It is a multi polar world unlike the times before and he has to take that into account. For now, we must not get too hassled and keep working for better Indo-US relations.

Abhik Sen

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