Why does the Indian press heap gushing praise on US President Barack Obama? Why do they only have scorn and ridicule for his predecessor George W Bush? Is Barack Obama really India’s friend? How has the Obama administration benefited India, if at all?

When First Lady of the United States Michele Obama decided to treat her husband to Indian food on his birthday, the Indian press broke into a characteristic orgy of smug self congratulation and took this as yet another reason to endorse the US’s first black president for his innate good sense and obvious good taste. The Indian press has long hailed Barack Obama’s presidency, welcoming not only his personal charisma and his Mother-Teresa-brand of personal charm, but also his policies – most inexplicably his policies vis a vis India.

The Indian press tends to toe the line of the international/American press

800px President Barack Obama walking with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh 2009 11 24 300x199 Barack Obama – India’s Friend or Foe?

President Barack Obama with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House.

George W Bush was often reviled by the Indian press – lampooned, laughed at, typically caricatured as some sort of bumbling ignoramus. Obama on the other hand is hailed as the great hope – as someone who will promote world peace and help uplift the downtrodden.  This is in keeping with the way the world press and the press in the US, typically portray these two leaders.

So, all too frequently the Indian press rushes to toe the line of the international press and to echo the contempt the Americans themselves seemed to profess for their ex president . To be sure George W Bush – with his Bushisms and his propensity to choke upon pretzels makes a quite marvelous butt for jokes. Witness the success of Jug Suraiya & Neelabh Bannerjee’s cartoon strip Dubyaman.

But what is the need to toe the American or even the international line on Obama? Obama and his policies have frequently been inimical to Indian interests (unlike George Bush), to our security, and our economy. Why is this conveniently overlooked in favour of being all politically correct? Why is there this refusal to call a spade by its rightful name when it comes to Obama?

Why Obama is not good for India

When Barack Obama first became the president of the United States, one of the first apprehensions was the possible consequences for India’s BPO services and the loss of jobs that depended upon the Americans. The Democrat policies dictated changes that could prove inimical for India.

While there was a lot of noise about the US helping India stamp out terror, there was little evidence of this on the ground. The American authorities deigned to ‘help’ the Indian cause only when it suited them; only when there was some personal benefit in there as well.

The phased withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan may be hailed as the right thing to do by the world press; as evidence of Obama’s efforts towards world peace and his attempt to redeem the image of the US as a neo-imperialist state. The Americans were applauding because they were just happy to have their troops back home.

Why exactly was the Indian press applauding that the Americans were leaving Afghanistan? The presence of American soldiers did place some restrictions on Jihadi forces inimical to India and their departure can only mean that infiltration into India becomes that much easier.

Pakistani terrorists aided and abetted by the ISI may continue to target Indians but the US does nothing except condemn these attacks. They take action only if it suits them and their interests.

It also turns out that Obama administration is guilty of hypocrisy – the drone attacks initiated by the Bush regime have actually increased and not decreased during Obama’s presidency.

Let’s not kid ourselves

Obama may quote Gandhi till he is blue in the face. He may refer to Indian as an “indispensible partner” but this partnership is valuable only when there are nuclear deals to be signed which will favour Americans and American industry. His visiting Indian first on his Asian tour may be significant, but ultimately it was mere tokenism.

Our press sets too much store by his utterings when he hails India as he did in his famous speech in the Indian Parliament. When he referred to India and “emerged not emerging” he quoted Gandhi and Tagore and acknowledged Indian innovations such as the ancient concept of zero, our press was abjectly grateful.

We needn’t be. We need to be more circumspect about lionizing Obama or indeed any American who comes calling. Let’s try and look beyond the lip-service and identify the US policies and their self serving nature. Let’s not be so pathetically grateful for what they say; let’s try and reserve our appreciation for actual action – action that speaks louder then Obama’s dulcet, alluring verbiage.

By – Reena Daruwalla

See also

Lessons from Afghanistan – How Not To Win Friends And Influence People
US and Iran Relations – A Glimmer of Hope

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