THE GREAT MAN
arrives and checks into the Taj Hotel in Mumbai and kickstarts his tour with a symbolic
tribute to the victims of the 26/11 attacks in India. The Indian public gets a first taste of his well publicised oratory, urbane charm US President Barack Obama addressing the Parliament and linguistic excellence. Straight after kicking off with the right notes, Obama gets into full gear announcing deals worth a massive 10 billion dollars and, more importantly, promising 54,000 jobs for Americans. Next stop was an interaction with a bunch of young students (his forte) where he was put awkward questions which he tackled with ease, especially the ones related to Pakistan. Then the Obamas went on a full overdrive with their mission to capture the hearts of the Indians with their admiration of Gandhi, dancing with the kids, their appreciation of the Indian culture and were visibly overwhelmed by the pristine beauty of historic places in the Indian capital. The icing on the cake was the eloquent masterpiece that he delivered at the Indian parliament, striking the right cords with quotes from our ancient scriptures and concluded with a symbolic Jai Hind.
The Wave, The Smile, The Charm. I have seen all of this here for two years and I am more interested in whether these initial overtures mean something or it's a mere 'all talk, no action' stuff. So I decided to dissect into the merits of the visit and see how we can move forward. For this to happen I decided to analyse Obama the individual, Obama the politican/ CEO and their contribution to the status of Indo-US ties during this trip.
Continuance of positive vibe
One of the biggest accomplishments of this visit was often overlooked by many media analysts. In my opinion, the continuation of the positive vibe of energy infused by the visits of American Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and now has surprised many. Many expected Obama to come hard on India courtesy of the old belief in the Indian political circles that the Democrats are not as friendly to India as the Republicans. This visit has shattered that cliché. We have to come to terms with the fact that the only thing that Democrats and Republicans agree upon today is continued good relations with India. After all, the West is increasingly realising the importance of India as a strategic partner in the upcoming decades.This continuance of positive vibe was only possible by the individual persona that Obama has. His charm, wit, emotional connect with the youth, cosmopolitan upbringing which makes him sensitive towards cultural intricacies, chemistry with First Lady Michelle and, most of all, his realisation that India needs to be a strategic partner courtesy its inevitable rise in the global order have ensured that continuance of good relations from the Clinton era has been sustained. Obama the individual did shine very well here from an Indian point of view. Sriram Balasubramanian (23), an engineer graduate from the College of Engineering, Guindy, Anna University, now is a graduate student pursuing engineering management at the University of southern California, Los Angeles.
In full throttle...
Obama was in full throttle as well. The deals that were signed were pretty comprehensive in nature. Coming from a mid term election defeat a day ago, he surely had to show results. From India's point of view, US gave support to India’s membership of NSG and UN Security Council (albeit cautiously); DRDO and ISRO were off the blacklist; Spicejet order for 33 aircraft, the 100 engines order for GE for the LCA... Among these, only two things are significant, the rest seem marginal. One of the most important aspects is the question of the UN Security Council affirmation. This is a very tricky card played by the Americans. The process for UNSC permanent seat is laborious; it involves various global dynamics and has other competitors. We should be happy about the support of the US but there is not much done at this stage, so the hype and hopla is unwarranted. Another crucial component of the deals is the fact that our national research agencies (ISRO & DRDO) are off the blacklist. Intellectual transfer by our scientists, exposure to American research to our researchers and profitability due to our high tech exports (something that was not possible till now due to Pokhran) are the benefits. India needs 25,000 MW of nuclear energy in the next 10 years and India plans to invest $100 billion in defence technology hardware. Americans are looking at this big pie. Even if 10 per cent of this is realisd, it would add 5000 jobs to the US. In the short term it makes us create jobs for them but in the long term it might help as the job creator for America and not the 'outsourced' villain. In short, when you look at all these deals from a bigger picture, it seems to favour the Americans more than us at least in the short run. Thus Obama the CEO seems to have extracted much more to the US in these deals. How did he do it? In order for Obama to accomplish what he has done economically for the US during this trip, one aspect is very crucial and Obama the individual creeps in here again.
The rapport is distinct and exemplary
The rapport that Barack Obama shares with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is distinct and exemplary. Both these men are intellectuals of the highest order; personify the ideals of working their way through life despite trying circumstances and challenges confronting them at every corner. Despite corruption widespread in his current tenure, Dr Singh as an individual is still deservedly epitomised for his values and
integrity. The intellectual bond that Obama shares with Singh makes it much easier for Indo-US ties to move forward even if India were to make some short term compromises. Both of them understand the nuances of the deals, the economics behind and, more crucially, the broader effect it would have on the world order. They don't need their bureaucrats to tell them what is going on; they are well aware of these from an intellectual point of view. Furthermore, the charm of the Obamas over the entire Indian public has provided a positive vibe which has ensured the Indo-US ties are forward looking.
Obama the individual and Obama the politician
In retrospect, the contribution of Obama the individual seems to be predominant over the negatives of Obama the CEO/politician at least in the short run. Overall the visit of the US president has been a relative success; but we should not get carried away by all the hype that surrounds it since our benefits are more oriented towards the long run. Its all about the details of the substance of the deals and how they are implemented in the long run that would decide its worth. If there is one thing that Obama as an individual and Obama as the CEO/politician could converge upon, it is the global stature of India today.
We are a sizeable global powerhouse. We have evolved from being job seekers in the US to being job givers in the US. We have to shed the concept of the American dream and focus on the Indian dream. We have to stop being obsessive about anything American and make other people obsessive about anything Indian. We have to realise we are in the driving seat and be aggressive in what we want in economic policies. We have to believe that we have been culturally blessed. We have evolved economically. We are becoming a global power. After all, never till now has an American President ever come on Bharat and said "India is not rising, it has already risen."