Monday, November 10, 2008
Obama and India
It appears from this side of the Suez Canal that the honeymoon, if ever there was one between India (and Indians) and Obama is already unraveling. (I am not yet convinced that there was a honeymoon -- there was an international poll sometime back whose link I have forgotten, which showed India to be one of the few countries where people, or at least the people polled, preferred Bush/McCain to Obama. Not surprising, considering that Republican Governments other than Nixon's have generally stayed away from interfering and finger wagging, and most yuppies and puppies tend to have a conservative mind-set -- no liberal viewpoint there (yes, I am generalising a bit here). Of course the Sunil Mukhi effect might also be at play). Be that as it may, whatever there was, seems to have sprung a leak, and the poor fellow hasn't even entered the White House. First there was the mediation in Kashmir threat or as we like to call it third party mediation which is an absolute no-no in political circles. (One would have thought that if two guys can't settle a matter for 60 odd years, a third guy can hardly do more harm). Second, there was the case of the missing phone-call -- Obama called 15 world leaders including, horror of horrors, Pakistan's, but not poor Dr Singh. ("Told you this would happen if you went around telling Bush that all of India loves him -- Obama is clearly sulking, no Indian loves him, you can't love both!"). The mandarins of the foreign office have tried to give it a positive spin by claiming -- "but he didn't call the Russian and Chinese leaders either - and they are important countries". But the intense disappointment is there for all to see. As if this were not enough, there is a belief that there is going to be renewed pressure on India to sign the CTBT if the new President can arm-twist Congress into ratifying it too. This, according to the full spectrum of political opinion, red, saffron, green, yellow, white is a disaster. I again fail to see why -- if the whole world falls in line to sign the CTBT, including Pakistan (and Obama is not going to pressure only India and not Pakistan), -- why should India, the land of the Buddha, the Mahatma and Nehru not ratify it? Since the time of Eisenhower and Kennedy, India has built a reputation of being a very touchy and prickly partner on all global political matters (apart from a tendency to moralise to other countries, a habit we now seem to be shaking off). Isn't it time we grew up? We are after all 61! And give the poor guy a break -- he needs time just to stop the economy from free-falling to nothing!