Obama And Our Love Affair...

Another US President visits; and yet again, we go ballistic in our Media interest, in our public adulation and in our analysis! The focus is immediately, yet again, on the visit and its impact, and how it brings the two "natural partners" closer in a friendship, and also how this visit is a landmark visit. Hope is being given that at last, India and the USA are friends, and that there is a convergence of interests...

Let us not compare the incomparables. For example, Clinton came 14 years ago under vastly different geopolitical, economic realities on both the Indian as well as the global scenario, and are thus completely incomparable. Not only that, we have had 14 full years to analyse the impact of the Clinton event, whereas the Obama visit is way too fresh for an impartial and complete analyses.  

Clinton was a watershed; it marked a near-total reversal in some aspects of American policies towards India, while remaining unchanged on any number of policy fronts, largely due to internal dichotomies within the American establishment. This was driven not by geopolitics but by economics, and was in the backdrop of India's economic growth since 1991, and its opening up of the markets. 

Obama is a precise copy of the above; it is driven largely by Economics, and the desire to increase business. This is proven by his statement regarding American exports to India, which was the focus of the entire visit. The reverse does not feature as prominently, which is understandable from the US point of view, and not quite so understandable from the Indian POV.  Further, this approach wont endear Obama to the Government or to the masses, as the current mood is making India a manufacturing hub, which is diametrically opposed to exports to India from the USA. 

On strategic convergence, US-India differences on Geopolitics stand as they are; China notwithstanding. While China may have been discussed, the real picture will only emerge after May 2015, when Narendra Modi visits China. The Indian Foreign Policy has been clearly Look East for nearly two decades now, and it has been further sped up to Act East under the current dispensation. India is committed to increasing trade in the SAARC region and China, ASEAN and the contiguous region. Nepal and Sri Lanka have been recently engaged quite successfully with a combination of strategies, the result from which has yet to come in, positive or negative. 

Furthermore, there is little chance of India fomenting trouble by  baiting China, which is sitting slam-bang on its border, and has surrounded India nicely and cleanly from Hambuntota to Gwadar, and is actively goading and building Pakistan. The fact that China, while giving arms to Pakistan, has never supported it actively on many aspects in international fora will not have been missed in New Delhi. Not when both countries are beginning to at least talk of de-escalation, and trade. And with Russia now building bridges with China, the situation is fluid to say the least. For one thing seems certain : Russia will never abandon India in the near future, as well as in the mid-term. 

The USA has a large economic exposure to China; as does India, albeit with a lopsided balance. Its strategic interests endear it to a continuance of a relationship with Pakistan; it has no choice. This is exactly the opposite of India's desires, and strategic interests. On Climate, or trade, or most other parameters, there is little short or long term convergence to speak of. It is still a transactional relationship, as opposed to a stragic relationship. 

In this scenario, it is by no means certain that India will play ball with the USA on anything, let alone China. Furthermore, Narendra Modi and his party are hard-core nationalists {I mean that word in the positive sense}, rightists, and committed to the immediate region. On top of that, 100% of strategic issues leave India and the USA firmly arraigned on opposite sides of the fence. Just as in 2000, nothing has changed. 

Past history is revealing : India stands as the only hurdle against the USA on just about each and every international fora of negotiation. That hasnt changed, and isnt going to. If it didnt change during UPA, it certainly wont during the NDA, rest assured. Again, nothing has changed. As in 2000, so in 2014. We are still on opposite sides. 

On the security parameter, the USA isnt doing us a favour. India has  a proven track record of weapons and high-technology development skills with a string of successes in Satellites and Weapons both, with a couple being actually best in class. Add to that our frugal skills. The icing on the cake, the simple fact that we are the biggest importer of weapon systems. The USA needs us as much as we need them, period. It is a plain and simple business deal as of now; we are developing utlra-high-end weapons with the Russians, and only beginning to talk of development with the USA. Nothing has changed, only thing is that now we are talking. Thats it. 

On Pakistan, the USA is still favouring it, its pointless comments notwithstanding. Anyone can shout Pakistan shouldnt do this and that; talk is cheap. We will believe the USA when it stops supplying weapons to Pakistan! And of that, given the ISIS and the American perceptions of it, wont change, not until the USA realises that Pakistan is the core problem and not the victim, or just a part of the problem. 

Thus, from most parameters, it seems as of now that there is no difference, and change in the status quo. Given our people-to-people connections with the USA, any US President's visit is an event; add to that the status of the USA as the single superpower. From my memory, if I try and eliminate the recency bias, there was not much of a difference in the public reception in both the cases. On other aspects, only time will tell.

Obama parting shot on Religious tolerance are the only point that makes me think that Clinton was better. Having said that, I have no memory of Clinton saying anything like that; neither have I any memory of his keeping silent - and I havent checked. That is why I said, "If I remove the recency factor". Having said that, that last comment revealed that underneath the bonhomie, nothing has changed in Washington, which still has its coloured glasses in place. Obama needs a score, USA needs business; India needs technology, FDI and manufacturing. That is the only natural fit, as it always was. Nothing has changed, folks. 

Comments

  1. Ultimately, it's all about geopolitics. Modi has won certain business and financial capital from the US. Good for India, I hope. China may like to engage India a little more favourably, perhaps...

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    Replies
    1. Agreed! Let us wait and see the way things develop!

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