Obama appears a hit in India as well

November 3rd, 2008 - 11:06 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaNew Delhi, Nov 3 (IANS) US President George W. Bush may have gifted the path-breaking nuclear deal to India, but his successor aspirant John McCain is no favourite here. Indians appear to be rooting for Democratic hopeful Barack Obama and see him as a harbinger of change.”If he wins, he will be the first black American in the White House. Black people will feel empowered not just in the US but the world over,” said Rahul Ram, the Cornell-educated lead singer of the Indian Ocean rock band that toured America recently.

“If he loses, I will be shocked,” said Ram about the Nov 4 US presidential poll.

The US elections with the charismatic figure of Obama at its centre have fired the imagination of people in India where every other middle class family has a relative living or studying in America. The US is home to a 2.7 million-strong Indian diaspora and 80,000 Indian students.

The US presidential debates have scored high on TV ratings, especially after the signing of the nuclear deal that promises to bring India closer to the US politically and strategically.

“The unilateralism of Bush has destroyed the credibility and image of America. The Bush gang, through its flawed policies, has only ended up encouraging Al Qaeda and terrorism,” said Ram.

He echoed the feeling of a large section of Indians who despise Bush for the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ram Rehman, a US-educated graphic artist and photographer, sees Obama as a harbinger of hope and change. “He is the only hope of any shift in that country not only in foreign policy but also in terms of international economic restructuring in the wake of the global financial crisis,” said Rehman.

Besides, Obama has a more nuanced and sophisticated world view, Rehman said. His background is an asset: born to a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, lived in Jakarta as a child before moving back to the US - all this makes Obama more aware of what’s happening in the outside world, said Rehman.

Obama is also a big hit at university campuses in India.

“Students are struck by the Obama charisma. He has the appeal of a Hollywood star among students: young people find it easy to identify with him,” says Moinuddin Ahamed, an MPhil student at Jamia Millia Islamia university here.

Lalit Mansingh, India’s former ambassador to the US whose stint saw the beginning of the turnaround in India-US ties during the Bill Clinton presidency in 2000, feels Obama’s world view revolving around a pluralistic multi-polar world “is more suited to India”.

In a recent interview to IANS, Obama underlined that building a close strategic partnership with India would be “a top priority” under his presidency.

“Obama believes in what is called smart power, a blend of soft power and hard power. It’s not that Obama will not use the military option, but he will be less inclined to do so,” Mansingh told IANS.

Like Bush, McCain tends to see the world as divided into good guys and bad guys. The bad guys include Russia and Iran, with which India has and would like to have good relations, Mansingh said.

Obama has rightly sensed that Iraq was a diversion of the war on terror from sanctuaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan and that’s very important for India, the former envoy stressed.

Not that the Obama presidency will be smooth sailing for India all the way.

“Obama bas strong views on non-proliferation and has made it clear that the ratification of the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) will be his top priority when he becomes president. India will be under enormous pressure to sign the CTBT,” pointed out Mansingh.

“But that’s not all bad news. If China and others agree and the CTBT become universal, it will not be in India’s interest to resist it,” he added.

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