What Obama means for India

When Barack Hussein Obama occupies the Oval office on January 20, 2009, he may go there with a strong India connection that has guided him through his formative years as a freshman senator—a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi that hangs in his Senate office.

For India, the change of guard in Washington comes at a juncture when Indo-US relations have undergone a seismic shift. The cold war divide is no longer there and with the nuclear deal in the bag the two countries have begun to trust each other.

There is also a growing recognition of their respective roles in the global arena.

While his predecessor George W. Bush may get the credit for rewriting the India script, it is expected that Obama will add substance to it. And he has the right credentials to do it.

He brings to the table a wholesome menu of substantive ideas, coupled with his out-of-box thinking on issues like terrorism and international security, which is pivotal for democracies like India and for nation states keen on coexistence in a world free from violence.
Obama realises that India’s success story and its geopolitical importance in Asia is hard to ignore, and it was visible during the campaign. In a blueprint for South Asia, Obama said, “India is a natural strategic partner of the US”.

South Block too, is upbeat at Obama’s victory. “We welcome his victory. We have excellent relations with the US and he has a strong bipartisan support for the relationship. I have no doubt that under his presidency bilateral relationship would steadily improve,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told India Today.

What does this victory mean for India? India has always been concerned with the Democratic Presidentelect going into overdrive over nuclear non-proliferation.

Sources say, when a senior official from the Prime Minister’s Office met Obama last year to seek his support on the nuclear deal, he mentioned that he wanted to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

But, sources say, Obama, who overcame his initial reservations to support the deal, may actually be on the same wavelength with his goal to pursue a world free from nuclear weapons.

He may, in fact, go a step further and may extend the partnership to cooperation on alternative energy and commercial engagement.

An added advantage for India is the new vice-president-elect Joe Biden, who played a key role in pushing the nuclear deal.

“Vice-president Biden and a number of Obama’s senior advisers are friends of India, I am sure they will consider building a stronger relationship with India a top priority for this new administration,” William S. Cohen, former US secretary of defence, told India Today.

Seasoned diplomats believe that the new democratic regime will be good for India, “Over two-thirds of the India caucus members in the US Congress are from the Democratic Party and the relationship will naturally grow. They may have a stronger policy on nuclear non-proliferation and push for binding treaties but it wouldn’t be directed at India alone,” feels Naresh Chandra, former ambassador to the US.


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