The President Of The United States Of America, Barack Obama, did not mince either the symbolism or the words on his visit to India. He wanted India to buy American in the tradition of his predecessor’s India and South Asia diplomacy which began with giving access to India to peaceful nuclear technology and fuel. He landed in Mumbai, India’s financial and cinema capital before he went to India’s political capital, New Delhi (the equivalent of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an accomplished economist and a former career staffer of the World Bank, arriving first in New York and then going to Los Angeles before meeting Obama in Washington after striking business deals).
India faithfully complied with American demands, a rare occurrence, after the country’s founding prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and his equally illustrious daughter Indira Gandhi spurned the United States and Russia and embraced them just as equally after 1947 in pursuit of the interests of the fledgling democracy which had emerged after a long but mostly peaceful struggle against British colonialism.
The heat of Islamic terrorism had thawed the relations between the two countries, frozen by Nehru and Kennedy and then by Kissinger and Nixon. Obama was counting on this rapprochement after the expansion of the G7 to the G20 and climate change talks in Copenhagen. Trade is in near balance between the two countries as India’s eloquent ambassador to the United States, Ms. Meera Shankar, had recently informed the Baltimore Council On Foreign Affairs. India has paid America back for outsourcing even though, similar to China, it had the option of not doing so to maintain a trade surplus.
India’s reciprocation for America’s catalysis of the ‘90s is its purchases of military equipment from the United States while the Obama administration, even as it covets both markets, is still safeguarding technical know how from India and China. This is a slippery slope for India’s reputation as a peaceful and non-interventionist nation but expected of the United States, despite Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Indian-Americans since 2003 are rising in the United States in business and politics similar to Jewish-Americans after World War II (Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana; Nicky Haley, Governor of South Carolina; and Vikram Pandit, the CEO of Citigroup at the top of the heap besides, of course, the many others following suit) who had coopted power to assimilate. The integration of people of Indian origin in America appears to be tied to the compliance of India with the interests of the United States in South Asia, no matter which party is in power in Washington, Democrat or Republican, unlike British-Indians despite their colonial heritage.
The United States wants India to be its poodle in Asia just as Israel is in the Near East (and the United Kingdom, since Tony Blair, in Europe).
America baiting India with the interests of Indian-Americans and the financial markets in Mumbai for foreign direct investment (FDI), and likewise India expecting the compliance of Indian-Americans to suit this new status quo could be unhealthy for both countries, unless the United States, to the obliviousness of India, is playing a neocolonial game just as the British had when the East India Company began to take over that country about 400 years ago.
India must not be an American poodle in South Asia as Japan had become in East Asia after World War II. India must learn from China and Russia that geopolitics, albeit in India’s own competent and peaceful ways, is not a game played sitting on the sidelines or in the oxymoronic violent comfort of post-World War II multilateral institutions in Washington and New York which expect to direct global integration on the terms of the G2 (United States and the United Kingdom).
Assertiveness by India, not only in South Asia but globally, can just as well if not more, improve the fortunes of Indian-Americans and Indians everywhere else.
I won the debate, though not of my own making. Let us see who will win the execution.