India high on Obama, Hillary radars

February 29th, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of F-16
By Arun Kumar
Washington, Feb 29 (IANS) India and the increasingly influential Indian-American community appear to be high on the radars of both Democratic presidential hopefuls Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton engaged in a bitter close fight for the party nomination. If front-runner Obama looks at India and the US as “natural partners”, the former first lady takes pride in recognising the criticality of a relationship with India in the 1990s and paving the way for her husband Bill Clinton’s trip to mend fences with the emerging economic power.

But as two key aides of the two candidates outlined their respective visions at a web-talk organised by the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) Thursday they conceded that there were only a few differences of degree in their approaches to the region.

Preeta Bansal, former solicitor general of New York State and a past lawyer in the Clinton White House and Justice Department, now in Obama camp paints the rising black star as “transformative” who has the ability to pull one into his trajectory.

Neera Tanden, policy director for the Clinton campaign, on the other hand suggests that while her rival is a “talker” Hillary is a “doer” who has been making change all her life and has the experience to do it again.

Obama, says Bansal, looks at US-India relationship as an affirmative vision founded on two shared interests: common values of promoting democracy and common battles and challenges faced by them in fighting terrorism.

The two were equally determined to fight terrorism, as both have been victims of its worst attacks on their soils. Obama also talked about addressing the root cause of the rise of terror through education and promoting democratic values, she said.

Hillary, said Tanden, has a direct engagement and partnership with India through her various trips to the country. She understands needs and concerns of India over China and has advocated a very strong and close relationship with New Delhi.

On outsourcing, Bansal said Obama understood that global integration of economy was there to stay. But he would fight for American workers who should be trained to do new jobs and get a safety net during the transition.

He didn’t want to undo economic forces in other countries but rapid globalisation provides Americans an opportunity to promote skills and infrastructure. He was appreciative of India s efforts to promote innovation and education by making collage affordable and industry funding.

Hillary, said Tanden, has expressed concern about not doing enough to train American workers. She was engaged in a conversation with India and other countries, as anger would only affect relations. She too wanted to promote competitive skills and ability with access to college education with stress on maths and science.

On immigration, Obama was willing to fight for bringing people out of the shadows. But he also wanted better enforcement of law and secure borders. While the US must remain a country of immigrants, it should be made easier for those coming in a legal way, said Bansal.

Hillary was all for comprehensive immigration reforms as she had seen Indian-Americans facing the worst kind of xenophobia. She was for a serious debate over the issue rather than it being used as a club to fight elections, said Tanden.

Both claimed tremendous support from the South Asians for their candidates. They backed Clinton because she has been there for them all along, said Tanden.

Obama, on the other hand, was transformative. He spoke to them not only as Indians or South Asians, but as Americans and their contribution to address issues like energy and raise American competitiveness, said Bansal.

He identified deeply with the Indian American story as like many of them his father came to the US with nothing more than a student visa and a dream.

On Pakistan, Obama was always against putting too many US eggs in the Musharraf basket and believed that to fight extremism, Pakistan needed more than F-16s, education to counter influence of madrasas. He would institute a $2 billion global fund for education and on his travels abroad to inspire democracy.

Tanden said Hillary too was against giving a blank cheque to Pakistan. She had talked about a stable Pakistan as important for India-Pakistan relations. US too should be concerned about a democratic and stable government in Pakistan as it would be good for the region and not just Pakistan.

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