By B. Raman
” It is absurd to say Obama’s whirlwind tour to India is a proof that the U.S. strategic focus has been shifted from Beijing to Delhi.”
So wrote Li Hongmei, the columnist of the party-controlled “People’s Daily Online” of China, in a half-serious, half-sarcastic article on the recent visit of President Barack Obama to India. The article, titled “Obama greets India with more than a lip service? “, was carried by the “People’s Daily Online” on November 9,2010. The article said: ” When the United States Federal Reserve’s action involving $600 billion came under attack from Germany, Brazil, China and other emerging economies, accusing in chorus America of trying to devalue the dollar to the detriment of other nations’ exports, Mr. Singh, however, gave it an unexpected endorsement. Seemingly, the U.S. and India are right now singing a duet, echoing each other”
The text of the article is given below.
( Text of the article carried by the “People’s Daily Online” of Beijing on November 9,2010)
Obama greets India with more than a lip service?
By Li Hongmei
US President Barack Obama finally kicked start his “biggest ever trade mission” Friday to the city of Mumbai, assuring India it is never left in the cold by the world’s super power. For the long-awaited Obama moment, India had made more than enough of preparations—all coconuts removed from the trees on the US President’s preset course to avoid falling on his head; dog and monkey catchers also called in to avert any “animal invasion” on his route.
Indian Prime Minister, 73-year-old Manmohan Singh, waited at the airport to greet the 49-year-old US President and his biggest ever delegation of 250 U.S. business executives, with the solitary aim—to boost US exports.
“The primary purpose is to take a bunch of U.S. companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia, in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world,” Obama said Nov. 4 after meeting with his Cabinet at the White House.
“We are made believe India is a true ally and would never let us down”, said a business executive and also a backer for the civil nuclear deal in Washington.
Indeed, a bulky deal of US$ 10 billion concluded with India and a fat prospect of job offers for more than 50 thousand Americans are what Obama needs desperately to shrug off the gloomy situation with a reservoir of domestic troubles —-the sluggish economy, a national jobless rate that has been at or above 9.5 percent for 14 consecutive months, a federal budget deficit forecast to hit $1.4 trillion, a plummeting approval rating, a downcast Congress and his recent Mid-term defeats.
What is equally noteworthy is that India is ramping up its military procurement prompted by the alleged threat from China and its ambition to lead the region, making India an attractive market for U.S. defense companies. The U.S. administrations, since George W Bush, has pinned hope on Delhi to act as the counterweight to Beijing.
The Indian government is helping President Obama make his case; and at the time, India, in the eyes of the U.S President, seems nothing but the last straw worth clutching at.
“Obama in his international globetrotting now has to show that he is creating benefits for American business,” said Steven Clemons, an analyst at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based policy research group. “He is shifting from a kinder, gentler, less unilateral stance in terms of foreign policy to one where he needs to show bottom-line benefits from American engagement abroad.”
Doubtless, President Obama and the first lady would cherish the common sense of returning good for good, as Indians are anxiously expecting, although not all of the U.S. favors are tangible and accessible.
Much to the delight of Indians and hailed by the Indian media, Obama reportedly alluded to what is called the “emphatic endorsement” for a permanent seat for India in the Security Council, even if he essentially handed the Indians a check that cannot be easily cashed. Also sure enough, he made the most encouraging remarks when addressing Indian college students and the public, dubbing India as a coming superpower, declaring the crackdown on Islamic terrorism in Kashmir and Afghanistan. He, too, never failed to hail India’s democratic values.
The US President, like his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W Bush, also touched such topics as easing some US export controls on dual-use technology and equipment and vowed to increase cooperation in fields like energy, education, agriculture and so on.
To adequately show their goodwill to the “Asia’s coming power,” to which Obama pledged to expand commitment, the charming first lady Michelle Obama played hopscotch, danced and sang with disadvantaged children from the Indian charity.
Even though India cannot totally let go the worry that on the U.S. radar screen, strategic vision of India remains diminutive compared with the rivaling Pakistan, and the U.S. would still have to reach out to China while hand-in-hand with India, it seems that India would rather step much closer to the U.S. than ever.
When the United States Federal Reserve’s action involving $600 billion came under attack from Germany, Brazil, China and other emerging economies, accusing in chorus America of trying to devalue the dollar to the detriment of other nations’ exports, Mr. Singh, however, gave it an unexpected endorsement. Seemingly, the U.S. and India are right now singing a duet, echoing each other.
Even so, it is too early to conclude Obama would satisfy the India’s expectations better and more concretely than, say, the previous Bush administration. And it is absurd to say Obama’s whirlwind tour to India is a proof that the U.S. strategic focus has been shifted from Beijing to Delhi.
(The articles in this column represent the author’s views only. They do not represent opinions of People’s Daily or People’s Daily Online.
Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online. After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009. Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China’s economy and politics. Graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida. )