|What India Wants||What Obama Wants|
| || |
It isn't every year that the president of the most powerful country comes calling on India. In fact, till a decade ago, most presidents of the United States of America didn't think India even deserved a stopover on their forays into Asia. Then, in 2000, Bill Clinton landed in New Delhi to charm the Indians and create a new mould for Indo-US relations, followed six years later by George W. Bush, who was rated as the best American president for India. In case you think the media should have become accustomed to the visit of American leaders, and are surprised at the buzz over Barack Obama's forthcoming visit to this land of Mahatma Gandhi (whom the American president considers an exemplary leader), then you have quite obviously missed the point: he is the first US president to visit this country in the first half of his first term in office. That by itself is a testimony to the importance of India in the global arena, its gradual rise as a power, its relevance to the superpower that's said to be on a possible decline.
Two major developments have prompted Obama to try and script a grand leap for India. One, the economic crisis which has cast most western economies into a tailspin. Two, the anxiety among many Asian countries engendered by the rise of an aggressive China. Agrees a senior official in the prime minister's office, "China's rise is the biggest thing that is happening around us." And when such a big change is under way, the Americans have to wake up and take stock.
Chinese warship fires missile in South China Sea
A Look At The Presidential To-Do
Nov 6, Mumbai
- Lands in Mumbai early on Nov 6 on Air Force One (left). Two other planes ferry 126 journalists and over 250 captains of industry.
- 18 US military aircraft bring in dismantled choppers, armoured vehicles, communication equipment and security personnel (below left)
- Stays at the Taj Mahal Palace (bottom left), Mumbai, one of the sites of the 26/11 attacks. Almost the entire 604-room hotel booked for his entourage; 70 per cent of the staff to be packed off on compulsory leave.
- To read out a statement against terror at a small function where he interacts with 26/11 victims
- Visit the Gandhi Museum. The Father of the Nation was an inspiration for Obama. Also
celebrate Diwali at a school.
- Speak at a summit of the Indian-US business communities
Nov 7, Mumbai
- Address a town hall-type meeting at St Xavier's College
- Attend a round-table conference on agricultural cooperation and food security
- After lunch, leave for Delhi
Nov 7, Delhi
- Humayun Tomb to be first port of call in Delhi. Then drive down to Roosevelt House for US ambassador event.
- Will stay at Maurya Sheraton. All three wings booked for the Americans. An entire floor reserved for Obama and Michelle.
- The Maurya to serve an Obama platter, a mix of special meat, chicken and seafood dishes
- Attend a private dinner at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence
Nov 8, Delhi
- After guard of honour at Rashtrapati Bhavan (below), drives down to Rajghat (bottom) to pay homage to the Mahatma
- One-to-one meeting with Manmohan at Hyderabad House, followed by delegation-level talks
- Obama and team to attend lunch hosted by PM. After signing agreements, to hold joint press meet.
- Address joint special session of Parliament
- Attend presidential banquet hosted by Pratibha Patil in the evening. A 20-minute cultural capsule on "essence of India" likely to precede dinner.
Nov 9, Depart
- Leaves for Indonesia
But then China began flexing its muscle, exploiting the economic crisis to surpass Japan as the world's second-largest economy and then staking unilateral claims over South China Sea and other islands in East and Southeast Asia. The other countries of the region, mostly close allies of the US, were not only alarmed but wondered whether the US was deliberately forsaking its role of a stabiliser in the Asia-Pacific and allowing China to carve its sphere of influence there.
Courting India: Obama with Indian-origin Americans at an event.
Agrees Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, "This is a serious issue. The overall climate for openness in the US is not great, especially for issues such as outsourcing. The fact that Indian companies contribute to the US economy helps but it does not fundamentally alter whether or not the US is inclined to take protectionist action."
Eastern Manoeuvres: Obama with the Indian premier at the White House
Amidst fervent attempts to woo business in Mumbai, American sources say Obama will be provided a glimpse of India's progress in e-governance and panchayati raj. He's likely to be hooked live to a chaupal in session. Why isn't the media abuzz with speculation about a big-ticket deal? Partly, officials say, this is deliberate, aimed at lowering expectations to avoid disappointment. But the more significant reason is that a big-ticket idea can't be floated every time Indian and American leaders meet, that the nuclear deal was a game-changer and the gains have to be now consolidated, and that the thrust now is to have India and the US enter into global partnership.
Obama is expected to carve out a much bigger role for India in the immediate region, and more importantly, across the globe. The two sides are now contemplating to work together for poverty alleviation not only in India but also in the countries of Africa. A substantial role is likely to be defined for India in Afghanistan, testifying to Obama's acceptance that peace and stability there have a direct bearing on India's security.
Wives Inc Michelle Obama with Gursharan Kaur in Washington
Ultimately, as the US plans to create space for India to play a global role, New Delhi shouldn't forget that it can't expect others to hold its hand to glory. India will have to understand America's compulsions in Afghanistan, and seize upon other opportunities to raise its profile as a great nation that's devoid of hunger and believes in progress for all.
|Also In This Story|