Barack Obama came, he spoke and he conquered. At least that’s what some of the biggest media houses would have you believe. Nothing could be more misleading for the Indian public. Here are the reasons why the trip was only of feel-good value, that too for dumb people.
1. Obama had a clear cut mandate. And that mandate was to show Americans that he was taking back jobs for them. He took away business worth 10 billion dollars and 50,000 jobs. These 10 billion dollars could have been used in India to create 200 times more jobs, because for every American job we create in America, we can roughly create about 200 jobs in rural India. It was a classic game of begging that the new America is now seen playing in India and China. With India, it’s about access to its markets and deals with the government. And with China, it’s about the revaluation of the Chinese currency to reduce their foreign debt and make Chinese products uncompetitive in American markets! I would even say that it was indeed sad to see such a weak American President for the first time in history. An American President is expected to speak like a great statesman – whether he speaks to businessmen or to the Parliament. He is expected to talk about America’s role in global peacekeeping and poverty eradication, the latter more so since India has 65 percent of people below the globally defined poverty line of people earning less than 2 dollars a day. It was a shame that his talks never touched upon any of it.
2. He did speak of the need for Pakistan to bring 26/11 criminals to justice... But that is purely lip service. He never spoke of access to Headley. Just before coming to India, he doled out 2.2 billion dollars military aid to Pakistan. Talking about Pakistan supporting terrorism, yet giving them money to spread terrorism in India; both cannot go hand in hand. It’s typical American double speak. He did not utter a word about stopping aid to Pakistan. He only used cleverly worded stuff about Pakistan to gain brownie points in India without giving away anything.
3. He did not utter a word about China and its role in supporting Pakistan or its illegal occupation of Indian land. But a few months back, he did speak about the need for China to be the guardian of South Asia, including Kashmir.
4. It was really nice of Obama to be so appreciative of Gandhi. But as Americans prepare for a war on Iran – less for security issues and more to revive their economy – I doubt if Gandhi is what he really believes in... Loving Gandhi and bombing countries for financial gains don’t go hand in hand. As a person, I am very sure that he appreciates Gandhi, but as a world leader, he does not display the same in his actions. Signing a memorandum allowing poor African countries to use children for war certainly doesn’t speak greatly for a Gandhian.
5. The big Obama announcement is supposed to have been about his support to India for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. It might be noted that what he said has been said in the exact words by Bush before him and Clinton before that. It’s a shame that as a nation, we get so excited by such lip service. We deserve to be in the Security Council, and without us the Security Council is a sham. Obama’s mentioning the same is not a favour. And there is absolutely no reason to be excited about it. A permanent seat is our due and it is the Security Council’s job to call us and give us this due with appropriate apologies for the delay. And we should then proceed to rip them apart for the delay.
In fact, Obama said he welcomes a reformed United Nations Security Council with India in it. Th at means nothing. He knows that without the five nations’ support, India cannot be a permanent member; and China has not yet extended its support. Secondly, for India to be a permanent member of the Security Council, all these five nations will have to get the same approved in their respective parliaments with a majority vote! With heavy losses in the House of Representatives as well as in the Senate, Obama may not even succeed in getting this passed in his own country. For that matter, Obama never even mentioned that he would propose India’s candidature to his government and get the same passed. So, it’s still miles to go for something we thoroughly deserve. The second largest populated country in the world doesn’t yet have the right to decide on security issues of the world. India should actually boycott the United Nations till it is inducted into the Security Council as a permanent member; as it is, the United Nations is today nothing but an American tool to enforce its policies on the
6. It’s a sham that he believed – and worse that Indians were made to believe the same by the Indian media – that India is a growing economic superpower and that America needs Indian markets. Obama had come here less for Indian markets and more for the money that the Indian government plans to spend on dual-use technology, nuclear and military programmes etc. And he wanted those deals. In essence, it was the Indian government’s money that he was eyeing, and not the consumer market. There is no consumer market in India that he cares about in real terms. For that, he goes to China. Th at’s where the consumer market lies. Compared to the American 18 trillion dollar GDP for a fourth of India’s population, India’s 3 trillion dollar GDP is of no meaning to America.
Obama knows best that the concept of the Indian middle class is a fantasy. What India terms as its middle class is below poverty line people for Americans. Americans sell ten times more in China where a real thriving middle class exists. DRDO head himself said that we don’t need American technology to advance our capabilities. The technology that we want, we already have access to the same through other countries. So the opening up of the dual-use technology was no favour. Rather, it was done again to get a pie of the Indian government’s spending power, where deal-making is easier.
7. Finally, the big business opportunity for India; outsourcing! Obama did not say a single word about diluting his anti outsourcing stance. Rather, he lobbied for more access to Indian markets – basically biotech, pharma, retail etc. And as Indians, we did not say a word about our lack of access to their agriculture products’ market, where we could make huge gains.
In a nutshell, one can conclude by saying that just like American typical standards, Obama’s current journey to India was a trip to get without giving; to talk about free markets while keeping their markets protected. That’s typical American doublespeak. Of course, in between we got to see glimpses of the great Obama charisma. His great speaking abilities; his great agility and friendly gestures and ways with ‘staged’ children.
Although I have to say that his answer to a staged question by a Mumbai student (something like how do we strike a balance between the material pressures of this world and the pursuit of happiness?) was so unintellectual that it raised questions about his intellectual ability to comprehend the deeper meaning of life.
The best part of the tour, for a change, was our Prime Minister Dr Singh’s assertive speech during the common address. It might not have been as eloquent as Obama’s speech was, or like those given by Dr Singh’s Chinese counterparts – who now treat America as their junior partner; of course, thanks to their hard earned real might – yet, it showed that Dr. Singh was in no mood to mince words when it came to India’s expectations out of America. It’s a different story that this visit of Obama fulfilled none of them.
- 12 November 2010 |
- Arindam On America