It isn’t every year that the president of the most powerful country comes calling on India. In fact, till a decade ago, most presidents of the United States of America didn’t think India even deserved a stopover on their forays into Asia. Then, in 2000, Bill Clinton landed in New Delhi to charm the Indians and create a new mould for Indo-US relations, followed six years later by George W. Bush, who was rated as the best American president for India. In case you think the media should have become accustomed to the visit of American leaders, and are surprised at the buzz over Barack Obama’s forthcoming visit to this land of Mahatma Gandhi (whom the American president considers an exemplary leader), then you have quite obviously missed the point: he is the first US president to visit this country in the first half of his first term in office. That by itself is a testimony to the importance of India in the global arena, its gradual rise as a power, its relevance to the superpower that’s said to be on a possible decline.
This also explains why Obama’s visit has been pitched as a defining moment in Indo-US relations. Forget those trite catchwords—Pakistan, Kashmir et al. Do not search for an idea comparable to the civil nuclear deal, crafted under the Bush administration, before you declare Obama’s visit to India a success or otherwise. It’s time to think big, sources say, and it can’t get bigger than what Obama plans to unfold during his November 6-9 visit: project India as a power with a sinew impressive enough to partner the US not only in Asia but in the entire world, including an emerging Africa partnership.
Two major developments have prompted Obama to try and script a grand leap for India. One, the economic crisis which has cast most western economies into a tailspin. Two, the anxiety among many Asian countries engendered by the rise of an aggressive China. Agrees a senior official in the prime minister’s office, “China’s rise is the biggest thing that is happening around us.” And when such a big change is under way, the Americans have to wake up and take stock.
Chinese warship fires missile in South China Sea