With collaboration, both US, India stand to gain: Obama’s message

November 7th, 2010 - 6:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arvind Padmanabhan
New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) The broad message US President Barack Obama sought to deliver in the first leg of his four-day India visit is clear: the people of the two largest democracies will serve better if they shed old dogmas and realise they are indispensable partners in the 21st century.

This message was reflected no better than in his promise to remove restrictions on US high-tech exports to India that should please his hosts, while announcing commercial deals worth $15 billion that will support 54,000 American jobs, which should counter critics back home.

“Here in India, I know many still see perceive the arrival of American companies and products to small shop keepers and to India’s ancient and proud culture. But these old stereotypes, these old concerns, ignore today’s reality,” the president said.

“I believe the relationship between United States and India will be one of the defining and Indispensable partnerships of the 21st century,” he told some 400 top executives from the two sides.

Even the events and engagements chosen for the US president and First Lady Michelle Obama reflected that the ties between the two nations stretched beyond business, jobs and outsourcing, expanding to areas that can transform people’s lives.

They were first at the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers, interacting with the survivors and families of the victims of the 26/11-terror attack to clearly state that Washington stands by New Delhi in the fight against terrorism.

If critics cry out that he avoided naming Pakistan while reflecting on the need to curb global terrorism, others maintain this conscious omission was to declare that India-US ties today go beyond the hyphenated relationship Washington earlier shared with the two most populous countries in South Asia.

His explanation came later: “It may be surprising, but I am absolutely convinced that the country which has the biggest stake in Pakistan’s success is India,” he told students during an interaction at St. Xavier’s college in Mumbai Sunday.

Also by stating that the US not only welcomes India’s rise but supports it as well, he may also have made a veiled comparison about Washington’s uncomfortable ties with China due to its authoritarian form of governance.

Then there was a visit to a memorial of Mahatma Gandhi, whom he called a “hero not just to India but to the world” and said how his principles of non-violence and self-respect were relevant even today and had inspired thousands of African-Americans.

Even during an interaction with farmers, where he got a glimpse of how India was seeking to bridge the digital divide by reaching technology and services to the hinterland, Obama made it a point to recall the ‘green revolution’ in agriculture of the 1970s.

He said that revolution happened because of the collaboration among scientists from India and the US, alluding that this was what helped India deliver better seeds and irrigation to farmers, making the country self-sufficient in food production.

Obama particularly enjoyed his interaction with India’s GenNext, whom he asked to join public service in the right earnest. The first lady reflected the way her husband felt about the interaction better.

“I have been really looking forward to this trip for a long time. The time we spend with young people is very special for me and president,” she said. “When I was your age I never dreamt of travelling to countries like this.”

As the US first couple get down to business in the Indian capital, where their official part of the visit is on Monday, expectations will be high, focusing on tangible outcomes. But the larger appeal for alliance cannot be wished away.

(Arvind Padmanabhan can be contacted at arvind.p@ians.in)

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