Let’s admit it. India is not even a bleep on the US election radar this season.
Being Bangalored was more of an issue last time around, but the world has moved on since.
India is passé. The economy has slowed, the Prime Minister - once a blue-eyed boy - has been making it to international magazine covers for all the wrong reasons. Besides, America has too many of its own problems to care.
As they say, it’s the economy stupid. The hullabaloo of the change that Obama was supposed to bring to the shores of Uncle Sam has been replaced by a more pragmatic sense of reality. And reality sucks.
Most Americans are worse off in terms of living standards than four years back when the Obama came to the helm. With unemployment rate looming at 7.9%, and fiscal deficit at USD 1 trillion, it’s not going to be a cakewalk for Obama.
In fact, the last President to have won an election with unemployment rates at these sorts of levels was Franklin D Roosevelt. That was a long time back.
Obama’s healthcare reforms may turn out to be a major issue. It has dominated discourse through the campaigning to the level NHS preoccupies the Brits usually.
The elections are set to be a close call, so much so that there is even speculation of a tie.
In the midst of such rabid electioneering, where does India fit in?
Not where China does. Nor where Iran stands.
India is there but not quite. Limited to some gabble about off shoring. That’s the total level of national recall.
Foreign policy which was left for the third round of presidential debate, and was believed to have been won by the incumbent President had no mention of India. They discussed China and the Middle East. Israel and its longstanding tussle with Palestine. Afghanistan, yes. Pakistan was mentioned over two dozen times! But no India.
The Americans see us as strategic partners in South Asia – a tool to contain China and gather intelligence on Pakistan. Our role and utility for the United States would remain the same, whosoever is the President. Even if Romney made no reference to India in his foreign policy speech, his outlook and policy decisions are unlikely to be different.
For India, Obama has been what most Democrat Presidents have been. Warm and friendly, but not very useful. Case in point is the N-deal which is yet to fully operationalise. Republicans, whom Indians traditionally see with scepticism, have historically been more decisive. Remember Manmohan Singh’s “we love you” remark to President Bush. After destabilising the world with his eccentric Iraq policy, he must have heard those words only from Indians, besides his wife.
So Mitt Romney could be a surprise.
He has the additional advantage of being a successful businessman. The fact that Romney inadvertently admitted that he hardly cared for 47% of the less well off US population shows his interest will be where the money is. For an entrepreneur, profits are the gospel. If enterprises will benefit from outsourcing, so be it.
But he is also likely to push more aggressively for reforms in India, so that American businesses benefit from accessing India’s market and can invest without too many riders or airtight caps, and also have the convenience to pull out with ease.
As far as Indian Americans are concerned, divisions have probably never been sharper. The community is split between the two candidates much like most of America.
Life and times were never so boring.