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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Obama's Visit To India


Obama’s visit to India is a renewal of marriage vows between two countries that have historically neglected one another. His tour has rekindled a passion that was never there. For India is at last getting some love, because the U.S. knows this union is good for business.

For Obama’s visit to India is as much of a tribute to an emerging power as it is an admission that the United States is a submerging power. The global financial crisis has laid bare the fragility of the West’s institutions. It’s Achilles heel grows in step with it’s increasing financial complexity.

Like an Ambassador car being hit by a bus, India has not only survived but has flourished. This robustness is something that is not easily ridiculed. Obama went as far as to say India was not emerging but had “risen”. He knows with this new wealth comes military power.

That military power is something the U.S. wants on their side, pointed well away from them. The badly kept dirty little secret is that India is perceived as being rather more serious at killing Muslims militants than Pakistan. Obama has consistently stated in his Mumbai trip that India has the greatest investment in Pakistan’s stability. Diplomatic speak for it is deeply in India’s interest to do more to suppress Muslim militancy in the region. The Americans are very fond of domino analogies and it would not have escaped their imagination that if the Afghan domino continues to fall too heavily on Pakistan’s it will topple. That would make India, in the American’s eyes, decidedly more essential in containing the ‘onslaught’. But of course under their enlightened leadership.

But the U.S. are comically out of their depth. With every passing day Pakistan looks increasingly like the multi-headed beast Kalyan. A multitude of Stately heads from the Army chief to the actual President, who is quite unintentionally ceremonial, and the madly swaying intelligence heads in between. Conflicting orders with conflicting policies. Fighting Talibanis on her western borders and then training and financing militants to infiltrate Kashmir to her East. This must be deeply confusing to U.S. State Department officials who habitually stop at red lights and like country music.

The U.S. are screaming for an ally who can be more easily understood and less shifty. But does India want to increase it’s co-operation with a nation that is has an occupying force in two countries in the region? Can India suppress it’s gag reflex when lectured by Obama on how to fight militancy when the U.S. have fertilized the fundamentalist’s ideology almost single handed?

Of course they can because it’s business yaar! India wants to be able to continue it’s startling rise as the U.S.’s call centre. Obama had made strong promises on his election campaign to slow the outsourcing of American jobs to India. This would be bad for India and simply catastrophic for Gurgaon. The days of the Non Alignment Movement are now dead and cremated. India can now be seen to be big buddy’s with the evil imperialist power and sell credit cards to people who have nearly killed themselves jumping out of the bath to answer the phone.

I have a fantasy that one day Americans working in a Texas call centre will have to learn Punjabi accents to take calls from India. This will take some time I fear but in this spirit Manmohan Singh placed an astronomical order for 10 C-17 cargo planes that will create 22,000 jobs in the U.S.! Was this a bribe to stop Obama cracking down on U.S. outsourcing to India?

What has not been reported is India’s huge medical tourism industry that must be bitterly anti Obama. Had his brave attempt at universal health coverage been a larger success India would have lost billions of dollars from uninsurable Americans staying at home to have a bypass. They must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Democrats were hammered in the polls.

However dysfunctional the marriage, the relationship will survive out of mutual necessity. India needs business. America needs allies in their war against an emotion. But above all none can afford to have a unified Pakistan under a militant leader with an undeveloped love for multi-faith democracies with a well developed nuclear arsenal.

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