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Barack Obama, us and the US

By Tarun Vijay
November 24, 2009 21:00 IST
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India will have to fight its own battles. It cannot expect the US to help us fight them, argues Tarun Vijay.

Two kinds of people are complaining about Barack Obama's Asia tour. One, those Americans who have been seeing America in the George W Bush mould for too long. They get depressed about a placid president and hence describing his Asia visit as 'timid' or too yielding to China.

They would have loved an Obama chiding the Chinese and demanding a human rights commission on Tibet. Obama didn't oblige them. He needed a facelift for the US and tried his best.

In the second category of people, we stand out brightly. We like others to do our unfinished jobs. It is not amazing to see Indian cry babies complaining too much that Obama didn't do enough for us. We forget he is the president of the United States and his first and foremost duty is to serve her interest and not ours.

And he did well for the US in his first Asia tour that took him to Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea in nine days -- with the maximum time being spent in China, the Asian superpower who spoke to the White House with an erect spine and received a warm hug.

In fact, Obama is the first US president after a long time who presented the image of an amiable, friendly and accessible head of a superpower that had otherwise become synonymous with crude diplomacy laced with military adventurism during the Bush era.

In Japan Obama won a standing ovation when he presented his Pacific connection story -- a very personal and a touching one indeed. And in China his descent from Air Force One alone holding an umbrella amidst Shanghai's first rains won him instant fans.

If Obama has won another friend for Washington, why should we complain if our leaders are on a spree to lose all and bend backwards for an audience with a queen or an alien benefactor?

Americans are a patriotic people who elect leaders with a spine, never compromising national security and always honouring their security forces.

If we don't do that, should we be complaining about it to the White House? Or should we set our own house right?

Here is a nation that doesn't honour its soldiers and keeps negotiating with traitors. We are a State that doesn't care about its farmers till they block Delhi's roads. We get enmeshed in hot money pursuits stashed in places like Laos and Liberia, and no one believes the culprit will ever get punished.

Who knows if a Koda or a Reddy will get 20 plus MPs in the next election and be inducted as the Cabinet minister in charge of internal security?

We kow-tow disoriented before the most horrendous of jihad sponsors and keep inviting murderers for talks and talks and then again talks for decades without resolving the main issues of contention.

Then, one fine morning, when we see the leader of a strong nation discussing our problems with his counterpart, we feel oh, why has he not helped us solve our problems with China? And with Pakistan? And while we have signed a nuke deal, why should it put pressure on us to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty too?

The US did what it did because that is what it thought was good for it. Obama is not ruling the US to ensure India benefits. Is that clear?

And look how our leaders, the great, patriotic, democratic representatives of this land behave. Here is a 'certificate, which I quote from a national daily: 'Vice-chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Marshal P K Barbora, said, "Politicians cutting across party lines are upsetting armed forces modernisation and procurement programmes." He further added, "The fact remains that the IAF's fleet of fighter aircraft is getting depleted. The navy's submarine strength is dwindling and the army has not added a new gun to its heavy artillery in more than 20 years. The weapons, ammunition and systems with the armed forces are getting outdated faster than the government is able to replace them. Irresponsible politics over the years, sometimes when a party is in government or sometimes when it is in the Opposition -- it has all along been seen that whenever the government of the day clears something, the Opposition says no. This badly impinges (on the preparedness) of the defence (forces)," he said.'

Do we need more to complain to Obama?

Now that our prime minister is in the US, guess what the 'biggest' secret that the wizards of the PM's media advisors doled out just before Dr Singh left for the US was. Some gems from a news agency report: 'As the silence fuelled speculation, the White House finally broke the silence to let out the closely guarded secret saying that the dinner would be held under the massive tent instead of the ornate state dining room. The tent option has been picked up as the guest list mushroomed and instead of 120 which the ornate room can accommodate, the Obamas are inviting close to 400 people for their first state dinner on November 24.'

That's all we need. Khana peena aur ghoomna (food, drink and travel). Be happy that Obama is giving a lavish dinner to not just 120, but to 400 of all the important, leading Indian lights of American life. Is that a mean achievement?

The US and China know what they want. China made the US accept its significant role in Asia, turned India into an area to be watched, controlled and helped to stay calm while remaining friendliest with Pakistan.

Both the US and China do not recognise Kashmir as a part of India. They look at the area as an unsettled matter, help Pakistan with dollars and military help, turn a blind eye towards Pakistan using their arms and grants against us, have done nothing to help India post 26/11, have refrained to tell Islamabad to stop its patronage to anti-India elements.

One of them attacked India in 1962; the other had remained a silent spectator then. Even so our analysts and Washington watchers feel at least now the US should help us. Wow!

When we are left to our own, we do better.

Obama postponed his meeting with the Dalai Lama before his China visit. We stood firm and allowed the Dalai Lama to go to Arunachal Pradesh. We trusted the US, inked a controversial nuke deal and hence invited China's bitter reaction expressed through its Arunachal raga, almost reminding of a cold war. The US did not even smile as if this doesn't concern it. And naturally so. Why should our spondylitis make the US lie low?

We have got to deal with the US on our own strength and de-link relations with China from Washington and the Dalai Lama. If we have to save Arunachal, it would be done on the shoulders of leaders in Delhi who have a spine and a will to raise the military strength to a winnable level. Not that we have to increase the numbers of fighter jets and submarines and nuke bombs to what Beijing possess.

Wars are not won by exchanging lists, but by the fierce resolve to destroy the enemy with a first strike mental make-up.

As one American commentator put it succinctly, 'Overall, Obama's Asia policy has been largely driven by events and domestic priorities rather than by an over-arching strategic vision. The Obama team had to closely coordinate with China on financial matters in response to the financial crisis.'

Hence, Obama won't care about India's case on Kashmir or rescuing Aung San Suu Kyi, leave aside helping the Dalai Lama to get back to Tibet honourably. His priorities are different.

Feeling euphoric seeing Obama hiring a few Americans with Indian faces on his team make no sense. They would be overburdened to ensure nobody blames them emotionally helping India crossing lines of American interest.

After all, Washington didn't allow Indian intelligence officers to question David Coleman Headley arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on charges of plotting terror attacks in India though India had allowed the FBI to interrogate Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist held in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

The US hasn't yet taken Indian companies, including the Indian Space and Research Organisation, off the blacklist prohibiting US agencies dealing with them. It is pressurising India to sign the CTBT without considering that we are surrounded by two nuke powers hostile to us.

The US didn't help us in 1962, bullied us in 1971, put hurdles in our way to punish Pakistan post Kargil, thus helping Islamabad's dictator, didn't take up our case post 26/11.

Washington -- or for that matter any superpower -- respects those who have strength and show an unyielding attitude.

Till we have such rulers who choose a date like 26/11 to be in Washington, rather than being in Mumbai comforting the nation, we can't stop greater powers meddling in our region and affairs.

Tarun Vijay is Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

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