Hope Obama keeps his words

By Saswat Panigrahi | Last Updated: Nov 23, 2010, 13:42 PM IST

Saswat Panigrahi

American President Barack Obama is facing the heat of a bruised economy which casts its shadow on the US mid-term polls. It is at this juncture when Obama has succeeded in carving out his Mission India plan. His India visit was skilfully calculated and the agenda carefully scripted.

Obama has understood India’s potential as a robust economy and its growing advancement in the field of science and technology. This is precisely the reason the ‘brand’ America is now attracted towards the ‘brain’ India. “India is not simply emerging; India has already emerged”, Obama lauded while addressing the majestic Central Hall of the Indian Parliament. The US President said, “Instead of resisting the global economy it became one of its engines unleashing an economic marvel.”

The US President accepted India as a civilization that has been shaping the world for thousands of years. Saluting the ancient civilization of science and innovation he admitted, “Indians unlocked the intricacies of the human body and the vastness of our universe,” adding, “Instead of becoming dependent on commodities and exports, it invested in science and technology. And the world sees the results, from the supercomputers you build to the Indian flag that you put on the Moon.”

Obama’s new understanding of the idea of India and its potential to deliver for the world is welcome. With its growing economic clout, India understands that it can play an important role in shaping a new world order.

Obama has recognised India’s emergence as a rising global super power. In a diplomatic gesture, he supported India’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, which many consider as the high point of Obama visit. “In the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member”, the US President promised. It is another matter that the US later stated that UNSC reforms were not happening anytime soon.

America will now remove several Indian organisations from its “so-called entity list” and realign India in export control regulations. It also intends to support India`s full membership in the four multilateral export control regimes -- Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group, and Wassenaar Arrangement -- in a ‘phased manner’.

This implies India will have a say in determining global export control, which could give our country an edge over China. Looking at India’s technological advancement, the US also sees its interest in inducting India in the multilateral export control regimes. America is keen to sell its defence equipment to India. But India needs to be careful and selective. In return, the US should open gates for transfer of technology to India.

It was during Obama’s visit, the Indo-US joint statement outlined cooperation in civil space, defence, and other high-technology sectors. Here India needs to be extra careful because the move could compromise nation’s communication secrecy.

Obama-led America sounds soft on Pakistan, the epicentre of international terrorism. But, why hasn’t the US labelled Pakistan a terrorist state, Obama was quizzed by a student at St. Xavier College, Mumbai. “Pakistan is an enormous country; it is a strategically important country not just for US but for the world. Within Pakistan there are some extremist elements…US is working with the Pakistani government in order to eradicate this extremism”, Obama responded.

However, while addressing Indian Parliament, the US President spoke in a changed tone. “We will continue to insist to Pakistan’s leaders that terrorist safe-havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to justice.” Chinese aggression against India and Kashmir issue were apparently missing from Obama’s Mission India plan.

Obama’s India visit clinched as much as 20 business deals, carried business worth USD 10 billion and a whopping 50,000 jobs to his country. Perhaps that was the reason, a visibly pleased American President -- who desperately needs New Delhi to curb the rising unemployment of his country -- struck a chord different from American ‘national’ line on the raw nerve that is ‘outsourcing’.

Whenever I’m asked about Indians taking away our jobs, I want to say: You know what, they’ve just created 50,000 jobs,” he said addressing a joint press conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Tearing apart the baseless allegations that Indian IT industry is making a growing number of Americans unemployed, the Prime Minister firmly retorted, “Indians are not in the business of stealing jobs.”

There are reasons that the US has accepted India as an indispensable partner. Remember, it was former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who had first famously declared India and the US to be “natural allies”. Now American President Barack Obama has asserted that India and US will be “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century”.

So far, there has been a perception in India that America always backs the wrong horse. It is true to an extent that the oldest democracy has never really supported the worlds’ largest democracy. Instead, it has yet to get rid of its Sino-Pak obsession. Obama’s India visit has shown promise. However, it remains to be seen to what extent Obama delivers on his promises, especially helping us get the UNSC seat and putting pressure on Pakistan to crackdown on terror.

World politics is no more America’s fiefdom. It a multi-polar world and India-US relationship should be based on mutual interest, trust and respect. For Indian leadership, it is a litmus test to play an incremental diplomatic ace to showcase India as a true world leader.