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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Obama trip: It wasn’t for India

  Mohammad Ali Sattar

It is unusual that a US president visits a country twice in a single tenure. That too, if that country is not a neighbour and has security problems. Obama’s second trip to India has been carrying significance, but the critics and the world watchers have overblown the issue.
By now the world politics has been quite clearly understood. The dismantling of the USSR and the subsequent changes that Europe has undergone deserves attention. The way things were expected to behave, they did not entirely.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union was on the cards and it was only a matter of time. That US is working on a mission of world domination is a stale issue and needs no deliberation. What has been happening inside the country is another matter.
The US has made an impressive comeback after the recession in 2008. It is coming back to its feet and there has been slow but steady escalation in overall economic index, although marginal.
Obama followed his predecessors and the ones who will follow him into the White House shall be walking on the same track. The future leaders of the White House and Pentagon will just have to adjust to the needs and times of the outside world. The objective reality will be determined according to its gravity.
Coming back to the India visit, the tour is to make India a friend (at least to look like one). See the change of stance. Once Narendra Modi was seriously disliked by the US, he was barred from travelling to that country; he also faced legal problems in the US.
All these changed fast when the US found her interest in the South is at stake. Moreover, you cannot ignore the Indian leaders (especially when they get elected). They are powerful allies in the region, although the US is way behind in the race for global competition.
With all smiles the US president arrived with his entourage. His interesting deliberations with the leaders and the general remarks were the goodies that the US president had in his basket. His address in Siri Fort was interesting, if not captivating.
He made things lighter when he mentioned the popularity of Shah Rukh Khan in America. He quoted a hindi line from Shah Rukh’s film. These were very good exercise on his part to win over the minds of the Indians.
He also did not forget to remind the Indian prime minister that the minority problems and the gender issues need to be addressed effectively. He hinted at the wrong situation now prevailing in India about ethnic, minority, gender and women safety issues.
And he must have hinted at the foreign ministry affairs in India. No wonder Modi opted for a more pro-US person as the foreign secretary, so Shujat had to quit well before time.
She had problems with Modi. The US was not happy with the way she handled the diplomatic row that India and the US had found themselves in last year. 
 However, all these has been tamed and Modi is flying in the seventh heaven with Obama’s supposed blessings. For all these President Barack Obama need not have come down to India. These were being handled by his men long before he planned this trip.
So, the backdrop of the visit is certainly a “China factor.” Since the rise of China is a concern for the US, it is but natural that Washington would like to post some form of a partner to guard against the expansion of the middle kingdom.
The US is aware that China is a huge nation. It has its history and tradition. The power of the people is well recorded. The rapid growth of the country in the last 30 years is significant. Not only as an economic powerhouse, the country is also turning into a global player in all sectors.
It has toppled the US as the number one economic superpower. It keeps on growing. Economic power brings in the military supremacy. The long time land dispute in the region with Japan and India has been plaguing the leadership in Tokyo and New Delhi. However, these two countries could hardly contain the Chinese influence.
It is only natural that the countries that feel threatened by the Chinese power will turn to the US for succour. Almost all of the SEA nations have been growing with US assistance and they will be obliged to call on the US for help.
If China can make inroads to the small economies of the region then things will change for the US. South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and even Indonesia are growing fast. Therefore, China might find a good partner in them, virtually weakening the US influence economically, and militarily.  Fiscal issues will start working soon.
With the conquest of the region and taming of India, China is sure to make its impression in the region and in extension, the world. South was always richer in wealth and human resources. Therefore, China and the Southern states are likely to grow depending on the friendly policies of the bigger power.
China’s growth will also see the back of the US from the pacific. US military power will also be considered redundant once the nations in the South feel comfortable with China. Washington will have to think of moving elsewhere from the South and the East once the Chinese and allies of the region take hold.
This entire future scenario may not materialise tomorrow, but it is sure to happen if the China syndrome is not taken care of. India will be a part of the US scheme to contain China.
So Obama, or for that matter, the US will befriend any Indian leader to work out the road map. It has also in mind the Silk Road plans of the Chinese. The great highway then, connecting the world, will have a great Chinese authority.
The bilateral issues between India and the US have been somewhat resolved, but not to the expected level. Modi and Obama mingled as good friends, but the actual mission remains incomplete and largely murky.
The 2005 deal with the US under George Bush was stalled for conditions that US put forward. Now Obama tries to ease the conditions, but that too did not look tangible. The experts will have to work on that. The compensation part and the gas emission factors will be hard to work out. The 400 million dollar grant for India is a good gesture.
We do not know what transpired between the two leaders and their team members regarding China. There must be detailed instructions given to the Indian side regarding US plans about China.
All these will come out in the course to time. We shall see those through the action either of Indian authority or in the classified documents that will leak out in the world press through another Assange or Snowden.
If you take a closer look, nothing much has been achieved by India by serving the warm tea to the US president. The sad part is the weaker economies and military shall always be at the receiving end. India is no exception.

The main reason Obama visited India was the China factor, it had nothing really to do with Indian interest. Future will speak. 

Source:  The Dhaka Tribune, 03 February 2015