On the face of it, it might look like a landmark visit (“Obama backs India on terror, U.N. reform”, Nov. 9, page 1). But subtract President Barack Obama's charisma and sweet-talk and it becomes an ordinary visit with a lot on the minus side for the host country. In all the bonhomie, not enough thought was given to how Indo-U.S. partnership is going to benefit our poor. The smokescreen created with jargon and feel-good phrases cannot conceal the social reality. An ‘economic upturn' leaves people in the lower social stratum behind. India's unimpressive human development indicators are proof of this. The figure of 50,000-plus jobs is being quoted, but what about India's share of the employment pie? The deals inked during the visit seem to be devoid of reciprocity, though the buzzword was ‘partnership'. Are Mr. Obama's support for a permanent seat for India on the U.N. Security Council and his endorsement of India's concerns over terrorism a quid pro quo for opening up its entire economy including the agriculture sector to the U.S.? Why didn't he do some straight talking that India should now choose primary education and health care over defence spending?
G. David Milton,
Mr. Obama's speech in Parliament is a wonderful example of the heights one can reach in oratory (“Obama's Parliament speech a hit”, Nov. 9). It is easy to pick holes in the diplomatic speech delivered to a diverse group of parliamentarians. Researchers in political science will find the speech an excellence in mindcraft. It is a pity that another fine orator, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was not there to hear the speech.
The extraordinary openness and the extreme cordiality that President Obama showed to India, in his address to Parliament are welcome. His forthrightness has more than compensated for his omission in Mumbai, in naming Pakistan.
He came, he waffled cogently, leaving the most expected of him unsaid. He bagged huge deals, but what did we get in return? Conditional support for a UNSC seat, a not very decisive stand on Pakistan and its terror outfits, no talk about the Bhopal tragedy, and an attack on Iran and Myanmar. He conquered a bowing and scraping, awestruck democratic India.
The twin messages by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his joint declaration, must be lauded. First, he has conveyed a clear message to Pakistan — that talks with it were difficult when the “terror machine is as active as before.” India looks forward to a strong, peaceful and moderate Pakistan for the establishment of peace in south Asia. He has also said India is “not in the business of stealing jobs” from the U.S. India's strength has been its economic success when the rest of the world has faced issues.
After a year of scams and calamities, the Obama visit must be seen as a positive development. But one can't help being cynical and also looking at it as a dead-end exercise in putting a positive spin on all the problems plaguing a large country.
Mr. Obama's maiden visit to India has put us on a pedestal and he seems to have met a cross section of society and predicted a bright future for all of us. But when will it be realised?
In an unusual show of independence and determination, Dr. Singh stood his ground, during the joint press conference. But he should have still made it clear to President Obama that our foreign policy is not negotiable. It is amusing to hear Mr. Obama coming down heavily on Myanmar's military junta while being ominously silent over the brutal suppression of human rights in certain parts of the world
Though Mr. Obama's visit reflected a variety of experiences, it raises some doubts on whether it had real concern for Indian realities. His landing in Mumbai on arrival showed that his first concern was economic rather than political. The packages he offered did not address the vital issues.
What struck me most about President Obama's Parliament address was the total avoidance of the ‘N' word, the name of Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister. He mentioned Gandhiji five times, referred to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, quoted Tagore and the Panchathanthra. Did he gauge the mood of today's decision-making class rightly and avoid mentioning Nehru even once?
The statements of many of the residents of Kanpura village, near Ajmer, before Mr. Obama, elucidating the benefits brought to them by optical fibre technology seem tutored (“IT revolution in Rajasthan village impresses Obama”, Nov. 8). The event appears to have been orchestrated by authorities to show off a shiny bauble of Indian technology to the visiting President.
The essence of Mr. Obama's vision for India would have been comprehended by only a few of English literates in the country. That's a pity. Having a system of translation so that the public at large could ingrain in their thinking the lofty ideals propounded by such leaders like Mr. Obama is missed. It is also a matter of conjuncture how many in our country would have cared to switch on their TV sets and listened to the speech. In a country where TRP ratings break records for reality shows, such events no longer stir up the conscience of our countrymen. With half the country below the age of 30 years, here is a role model to be followed.
Keywords: Obama India visit