Published On : Sun, Jan 25th, 2015

What gifts is Obama bringing for India?


Though we in India see Michelle – Obama’s visit to India at this time as a great event, specially since it will be the first time an American President will be chief guest at our Republic Day parade, few of us know that in his own country Obama is now seen as a ‘lame duck President’. Any President who is about to finish his second term and so not eligible to contest again, and his days of Presidentship are numbered since elections are not far away is viewed as such. There is not much he can do within his own country at this time so he ‘goes on needless foreign tours, seeing the world’ is how they see it!

So, it is a given that India and Indians are more hopeful about the fall out of this visit. What are the main issues?

  • Delhi elections – This fight for grabbing power in the nation’s capital is just days away now. BJP contestants and supporter are quite optimistic that the visit of Obama coming at this time will boost its chances of victory. While the naysayers say Delhi citizens who will bear the brunt of so many Delhi roads blocked off for security reasons and the general paranoia regarding his safety affecting their lives will not view it so favourably.
  • Nuclear deal finally to see light of day? Since 2008 this has been signed but not acted on due to differences on some key issues. Who will be held responsible in case of a nuclear accident and what will be their liability – America’s concern; and tracking of nuclear fuel – India’s objection. Who will ultimately compromise and how much?
  • US- Pakistan ties. Pakistan has always been recipient of large American largesse for many reasons despite India’s objections. Will USA do a re think on this. Will US force Pakistan to co operate more with India in fighting terrorism that originates on its soil – will Hedley be extradited to India? Lots of questions and not much ground for optimism.
  • Sharing of technology – It is known that USA scientists, specially in Defense and IT are not keen on sharing latest technologies with their Indian counterparts. Thus we have been relying much more on Russia for their (outdated in many cases) technology or creating our own with huge time and cost outlays. Will US be more ready now to share this with us? We do need it much more than before specially to counter cyber terrorism.
  • WTO and Balance of trade. This may come as a surprise to many that USA is not a really fair trade partner. India imports much more from USA than they do from us. They have stiff import barriers which they do not compromise on. They give much more protection and subsidies to their farmers than we do to ours. But at the same time, they see Indian markets as very lucrative and are keen to see their products in our markets – even if it is tobacco and cigarettes! Will this attitude change?

There are many such questions. Will be very interesting to watch the outcome,