Given last night’s blow to President Obama in the mid-term elections, where a handful of the much talked about ‘Tea Party’ were elected, it strikes me that his visit elsewhere, other than India this weekend, may have been (more) politically beneficial to his Presidency.
Let me explain:
1. Despite being a minority leader, Indian’s are huge fans of the Clintons. In fact, on a recent visit to the US, the sentiment expressed by several prominent persons of the diaspora pointed to their hidden hope that Hillary may consider ratcheting the pressure on Obama in the remainder of what they felt was his only term in the White House.
2. On bilateral relations, it may surprise you, but India really loves George W. Bush. For it was Dubya’s administration that allowed India to participate in the restricted super club of nuclear nations, despite their not signing important treaties on non-proliferation.
3. The civilian nuclear partnership was heralded as bringing a ‘paradigm shift’ to US – India relations – a true game-changer, if there ever was one!
Given that this is the case, what can Obama achieve:
4. Like Nirupama Rao said in her press conference, don’t expect too much apart from a structured dialogue that’s a continuation of interaction between the two sides. She’s trying to manage expectations, and did so effectively.
5. During the US elections, Obama suffered from rhetoric flourish which is going to bit him on his back side on this visit. India’s self perception as a confident, global player is partly attributed to her prowess in the IT / BPO sector. For Obama to promise to increase taxes for companies who take away jobs from America was a mistake in international terms.
6. America needs Indian IT firms. I don’t wish to teach you to suck eggs, but simply put Indian IT firms make American corporations efficient. Simple. So, why put this at risk. We already know that India’s Opposition Party, the BJP, intend on vocalising their views on this subject during the visit. Thankfully for Obama, they’re simply not a threat to anyone nowadays in the politics of New Delhi.
7. Given all the evidence that India’s on the rise, I don’t think that the Indian’s will treat this visit like they did David Cameron’s. The UK does struggle to make its case to India effectively. Many captains of industry have often said that their focus, which was once on good ol’ Blighty, has switched to other places. In Obama’s case, America remains an important market today, and importantly, in the future. You can be rest assured that none other than Sonia Gandhi and heir apparent – Rahul Gandhi will roll out the red carpet for President Obama, unlike her absence on Cameron’s diary.
My prediction for this visit – apart from policy announcements on issues like defence cooperation, counter-terrorism, pacts to do with economic matters etc, unlike back at home in the US, he needn’t get upset when he’s invited to a tea party, or two.