What India should expect
from Barack Obama, what it shouldn't
By Girish Bhaskar
president-elect Barack Obama waits to take over the administration
of the US, he faces daunting challenges on both the domestic
and foreign fronts. The expectations both within and outside
the country are very high. In his post-victory speech, Obama
cautioned that change will take time. Some of his efforts
may prove anti-climactic. People all over the world are expecting
big things from Obama as he ran a campaign as an agent for
fixing the broken American economy will be Obama's number
one priority, he will simultaneously immerse himself in reducing
tensions around the globe. As promised, a gradual withdrawal
from Iraq is to be expected. As the war in Afghanistan is
smouldering on without any tangible results, Obama will focus
on that area. As Al Qaeda adherents have found a sanctuary
on the Pakistani side of the border, every effort will be
made to get the cooperation of Pakistan. During the campaign,
Obama was clear on the use of American military force to get
rid of the terrorist threat from the Afghanistan-Pakistan
border if Pakistan is unwilling or unable to prevail on the
fight against terrorism is a global phenomenon. India has
been afflicted by a terrorist threat for the past two decades.
India's efforts to rein in terrorists on the western and eastern
borders have so far been unsuccessful. India can enlist American
help is combating terrorism.
the last eight years the Bush administration has forged a
strategic alliance with the Indian government. President-elect
Obama will build on nurturing the Indian-American alliance.
As a major emerging economy and the largest democracy, America
will continue to enlist India's participation in tackling
global terrorism, climate change and poverty.
there is some concern in India about the policy of the new
Obama administration on Kashmir, India need not overly worry
about American pressure to solve the Kashmir problem. As it
stands Pakistan is vulnerable to American influence since
its economy is in tatters and domestic terrorism is threatening
the national security of the country. The best way to reduce
tension between India and Pakistan is to encourage trade between
the two and observe the Line of Control on the Kashmir border.
The Pakistani leadership understands this ground reality.
It is in Pakistan's vital interest to establish cordial relations
with India. In an interview in the New York Times, Pakistan's
President Asif Ali Zardari stated: "We want better ties
with India and there is no other economic survival for nations
Bush administration deliberately ignored global climate change
mainly because adopting strict emission controls wound have
caused a heavy financial burden on domestic industries. Global
warming will be one hot button issue that the Obama administration
will strive to address. Here India and China may not completely
back global efforts if they lead to reduced growth.
A surefire way to poverty alleviation is to encourage free
trade. If America and the European countries can agree on
abolishing subsidies given to domestic farmers, emerging countries
like China, India and Brazil are likely to agree on reducing
the tariff on industrial products. During times of recession
there will be calls by politicians for trade protectionism.
This can adversely affect developing countries and may lead
to higher inflation. Reduced US imports can have serious consequences
for developing countries.
has hinted at abolishing the existing tax break that American
companies enjoy when they outsource their operations oversees.
India has been a beneficiary of outsourcing in the technology
sector. Obama also promised tax breaks for companies that
create jobs in the US. Yet outsourcing has helped the bottomlines
of many major corporations and there is no sign that the process
will slacken in the near future.
area that India can engage the Obama administration in is
to invest in infrastructure development. Indian ports, airports,
roads and bridges beg for immediate modernisation. Without
infrastructure development, further growth of the Indian economy
will be handicapped. State governments in India should provide
a stable, business-friendly environment for foreign direct
exist to further cooperation between India and the US in areas
of space research and medical research. India can emerge as
a major centre for basic and clinical research in medicine
providing jobs for thousands of people. Because of financial
constraints, India's medical research has lagged behind countries
in the West. By building alliances with various American universities,
India can improve higher education.
policymakers have suggested increasing the current cap for
H1-B visa for foreigners with technical degrees from 65,000.
An additional 20,000 H1-B visa will be issued to those aliens
with a master's level degree from US universities. The captains
of major US companies have urged Congress to increase the
cap. The thought is technically skilled new arrivals will
help spur the moribund economy by buying up houses. Any increase
in H1-B visa should be helpful to Indians eager to migrate
to the US.
India-US nuclear accord had the support of Senators Obama
and vice president-elect Joe Biden. Since India is not a signatory
to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the new administration
is likely to bring up this topic. India is unlikely to change
its position, considering its national security interests.
the existing geopolitical conditions America will need India's
support for dealing with terrorism, climate change and nuclear
proliferation. This is a far cry from the situation that prevailed
when India gained independence 60 years ago.
Bhaskar, a physician based in Lake City, Florida, US, is a
commentator on Indian and US affairs. He can be contacted