Happy Independence Day Mr President and here’s hoping that you had an enjoyable weekend.
Although it has been quite a while, but I am reasonably sure, your responsibility as the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s sole superpower does give you goosebumps even today. What a momentous day it was, January 20, 2009, when you took over as the 44th President of the United States of America.
With one hand on your hero Abraham Lincoln’s Bible and the other held high, you said, “I do solemnly swear...” and took charge of America or as your fellow countrymen like to deem…custodian of the world.
Although half-way across the world, I too was thrilled that winter night. You were and still remain my hero. You are someone, like our beloved Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has worked his way up to the stratosphere of eminence.
A great start but I fear, in your case, that it has remained as such, just a great start on which, with due respect, you could not build upon.
Surely no one, even your staunchest critics, will doubt your resolve to make America and the world at large ‘a better place’; you were honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize for the endeavour. But the problem seems to be in execution of your grand “Change We Can Believe In” plan.
On the domestic front, credit is surely yours for bringing-in much needed healthcare reforms, pumping trillions of dollars into the economy, and for trying to control the greed of Wall Street’s jetsetters. But – you will agree too – until the common average American doesn’t get back his house and his well paying job, things will remain disconcerted.
In your words: “Make no mistake, we are headed in the right direction, but we're not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans. We're not headed there fast enough for me either.”
Great clarity of thought Mr President; however, what you are trying to achieve is to change the very basics of the American society. Free market capitalism has been your country’s USP, curtailing it, or even trying to bring it under control is, as expected, will be increasingly questioned.
Things may still turnaround provided people get a credible alternative and that too, as with everything American, instantly. Your model of rebuilding everything brick-by-brick is great, but surely not palatable to your citizens.
You are trying…Best of Luck.
But, clearly, luck is not on your side when it comes to foreign policy. Here too you are trying to chart out a new path, a new beginning where America is willing to accept the opinion that Washington is NOT the capital of the world.
“No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation,” you said at the UN. Wow!
As an Indian I am impressed…you are right Mr President, for trying to be the change you want to see in others.
But for the Yankees, who pride themselves as the decision makers of the world, your approach is out rightly stupid or even worse -suicidal.
An American President doling out “power”, gosh how could he do it?, they say, and that too when the country is fighting complex battles far away from the Statue of Liberty - the coffins keep coming home.
Everybody agrees the wars were not started by you. Everybody also knows – much to your chagrin – that you cannot get out of Iraq and more importantly from the wild goose chase in Afghanistan.
Adding salt to the injury is that the torchbearer of ‘Change’, Barack Obama, is continuing with Bush-era policy: Troop surge - more control over the situation - train local Army and police - start withdrawal of forces.
It all looks so realistic, achievable; yet the body bags keep coming home and there’s no end in sight, despite your putting a 2011 date to the exit plan.
Even if it’s with great deal of anxiety, many still back you, but giving away America’s position as the sole superpower...simply unacceptable.
Although everybody loved the Cairo speech, where you warmed up to the Muslim world by gratuitously criticising and apologising for America's foreign policy misadventures, but, in the hindsight, it does appear that you could not garner anything in return.
You said America is not at war with the Muslims, OK great, but what about those Muslims who are at war with America. Let’s accept it, your country continues to be unsafe and citizens paranoid.
Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, even China; the list of those who are daring to confront Uncle Sam eye-to-eye is growing and you seem to be helpless. You cannot declare war, nor are you able to buy peace.
“Must be done”, “should be done”, “it is time”, words are powerful, but they seem to lack the teeth needed in the emerging geo-strategic equation amidst the spectre of an increasing number of countries willing to risk America’s ire.
Coming nearer to my home, Delhi; Mr President you very well know our Achilles heel – Pakistan.
I confide in you: As a family man, it’s scary to be in a neighbourhood where nuclear weapons are at an arm’s length from fanatics.
Your special Af-Pak – thanks for carrying along with George Bush’s policy of de-hyphenating India and Pakistan - envoy Richard Hoolbroke does conduct routine visits to Kabul and Afghanistan, which we like to believe, are to put some order back there, but everything said and done the NATO forces are on a sticky wicket.
President Hamid Karzai appears to be still nursing a grudge against you for landing in his country unannounced, and for taking his support for granted. He may very well buy peace with the Taliban, a possibility that is gaining currency by the minute, given the increasing forays by Pakistani Generals across the Khyber Pass.
Our only concern: America solving the Afghan puzzle shouldn’t result in Pakistan conjuring tricks on its eastern border.
India is ever willing to play its part to smoothen the rough edges, we are also capable of handling our problems on our own, but, surely, a little help from your side will do us good.
We are eagerly awaiting your November visit, all ready and decked up along with the ‘Obama platter’.
As a prelude to your arrival in the land of Vedas and Upanishads, here’s some soul food…
<i>Aum saha naavavatu, saha nau bhunaktu, saha viryang karavaavahai, tejasvina vadhiitamastu, maa vidvishaavahaii, Aum shaanti, shaanti, shaantihi</i>
(Aum, may He protect us, may He be pleased with us. May we work together with vigour, may our studies illumine us. May we have no contention or hostility between us. Aum, peace, peace, peace)
(<i>July 4 is American Independence Day</i>)