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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Potential Impact to India's Image Due to Obama's Presidency

I was looking at some of the American news magazines and newspaper coverage after Barack Obama's victory in US presidential elections and was taken aback by the comparison he is already drawing. Obama is already compared to the top American presidents of its more than 200 years history - on par with Lincoln, who won the American Civil War and ended slavery in the country, and Roosevelt, who defeated Hitler's Germany along with Japan in World War II. What exactly are Obama's achievements to compare him to the well known and respected former American presidents is a mystery.

Then you hear that American TV media thinks that it is its obligation to make Obama's presidency a success. One has to wonder why the adoration and adulation for an unproven and unknown person? One obvious answer would be because Obama is the first black US president, a failure would cause American electorate to think twice before electing another black president in the near term - a valid fear for some. But the hype of Obama seems so high, even before he is in office, any slip up will be devastating for his presidency. That's where I see potential danger to India's image.

Meghnad Desai describes the contrast between European and Asia reaction to Obama's election:

But the Europeans are panting to be first in line when he takes up office. Sarkozy has boasted that he talked to Obama for 30 minutes after he was declared President-elect. Gordon Brown as Prime Minister of the UK, which boasts of a ‘special relationship’ with the US, got only 10 minutes but he is plotting to travel to the US soon after Obama’s Inauguration Day on January 20 and be the first European leader to meet him.

In contrast, the response of India and China to Obama’s election has been fascinating. Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh missed Obama’s call at first and Obama called him again. The Chinese are not hotfooting to Washington after January 20 to see Obama. While the Europeans are competing to be the new puppy that Obama can take to the White House (while his two daughters get a real one), the Asians are being cool. What’s going on here?

In order to keep Obama's presidency perfect, any country that may seem opposed to Obama's world view may be in for a pummel by American media, and there by the world media - which tend to follow American lead in any news coverage. We already know about Obama's take on Pakistan's relationship to India and India's strategic matters. If Obama pursues this line of thinking and India pushes back, I am afraid India image in the world will take a severe beating. And this would especially be true if BJP/NDA comes to power next year with a role for Narender Modi in the center because we know there are already plenty of centers of powers in US that control governmental actions towards Sri Modi.

I warned many months ago, in another forum, that relation between Bharat and US is excellent because of only one person - George Bush. Others disagreed. Now it'll be interesting to watch how the relationship changes with Bush gone and potential difficult issues between the two nations come front and center.