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'India NOT a priority for US right now'

Last updated on: November 7, 2012 22:13 IST

'India NOT a priority for US right now'

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It was said to be a close fight, but as it turned out President Barack Obama effortlessly went past the challenge posed by his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Obama could well find that little has changed in his second term in the White House.

The Republicans still control the House of Representatives, while his party, the Democrats, control the Senate, making legislation, and sometimes governance, that much more complex.

Neither has the world changed in the time that the United States of America logged off the globe to focus on the presidential election. The same old challenges fester, at home as well as outside.

The economy remains in ICU, and its revival is as important for the superpower as it is for a world still tethered to its coat-tails.

So what are the challenges ahead for the world's most powerful elected official?

Dr Sanjaya Baru, director for geo-economics and strategy, International Institute for Strategic Studies, New Delhi, and former media advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, interacted with our readers in live chat on Wednesday.

We present the chat transcript:

Sanjaya Baru says, Hi, this is Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy, International Institute for Strategic Studies, based in New Delhi

I am here to respond to some of your questions

Kabeer asked, Dear Mr Baru, I guess it is primarily the Obama Medcial care programme that helped him win the election; I see a parallel between this and UPA I MGNREGA and Farmers loan waiver. What do you say?

Sanjaya Baru answers, Kabeer, I don't think it is just one factor alone that can be credited for either Obama's victory now or UPA's victory in 2009. There are several factors, and certainly health care was one of them

ajk asked, Will Obama stop outsourcing IT jobs to India?

Sanjaya Baru answers, Ajit, this concern is there, and even in today's papers in India Phaneesh Murthy has voiced this concern. But given the fact that Obama needs to help make the US economy more globally competitive he cannot hurt the Indian IT sector too much, since Indian IT has helped US industry and services sector become more competitive.

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Image: US President Barack Obama gathers with his wife Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia during his election night victory rally in Chicago
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters

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'Personally Obama has very good relations with PM Singh'

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Princess asked, Hello Dr Baru... What can we expect in Obama's second tenure, for India? More of atmospherics and little substance?

Sanjaya Baru answers, Not necessarily. His priorities will remain the domestic economy and getting the US out of Afghanistan. But Obama has taken a more favourable view of India in the last year or so, and we should expect an improvement in the relationship.

Aaron asked, Do you think Obama-Policies can see the USA at a better state? If he goes at this rate of trying to have all the corporate bosses taxed more, won't it be affecting more on the number of new recruits? The unemployment rate decreased during the elections only because of the simple fact that Obama played his cards with the Ohio Automobile industry. Whats your take?

Sanjaya Baru answers, This is a vital question for the US. American business has been very critical of President Obama. I have heard many business leaders expressing the hope that he gets defeated, because they view him as being "anti-business". I am not sure how much of this is a perception problem. But he will have to change this image and learn to work with business.

shivamogga asked, Is obama supporting india?

Sanjaya Baru answers, depends on the issue. In his first year in office he was seen as being very negative on India. But over the past year or more this impression has changed. He has personally very good relations with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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Image: PM Singh with US president Obama during the latter's visit to India
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters

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'Many Pakistanis feel Obama has been tough on them'

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ak asked, Will Obama stop supporting Pakistan?

Sanjaya Baru answers, I think many Pakistanis actually feel he has been tough on them! Don't forget the capture of Osama Bin Laden and the drone attacks. But if you are referring to liberal US aid to Pakistan, then I guess that may continue if Pakistan helps the US get out of Afghanistan!!

Ajeet asked, What do you think of the belief, theory, whatever, that the US is somehow behind the Koodankulam agitation because since US helped India come out of nuclear winter, Russia and not America has gained from the nuclear trade with India... There must be some substance in it, no?

Sanjaya Baru answers, I am not convinced the US government is officially involved in this, and no responsible Indian has said this. But there is a view that many US based organisations have been funding the NGOs involved and this they could be doing because they take an unfavourable view of India's economic rise.

water asked, Will be visit Indian in a year or two or at the end of 3.5 years.

Sanjaya Baru answers, well, he was the first US President to visit India in his first term. I do think he will also come during his second term.

nirmala asked, And doctor, strictly from an Indian perspective, going by experience, don't you think a Republican president in the White House would have been better for us?

Sanjaya Baru answers, Not necessarily. Yes, President Bush was very good for India. But President Clinton was also good for India. Obama started off being negative on India, but has become more supportive.

xwyz asked, How come the American media got it SO wrong sir? Close fight, photo finish, dead heat, were some of the terms used.. And what happened finally! Can you imagine such a scenario in India where the media gets it SO wrong? So as a media man, where did the US media go wrong, doc?

Sanjaya Baru answers, well, even the Indian media gets it wrong on many occasions! But I think the opinion polls reflect public mood, and not the electoral outcome, which in India depends on how the votes translate into seats and in the US it depends on how they translate into electoral college votes. The popular vote was much closer.

Man2012 asked, Dr Baru, there are people online from India, including "celebrities" who are writing "God Bless America"... Isn't that a tad-bit too much? Aren't we being lead by collective-psyches or popular sentiments and consumerism? Isn't there a pressing threat to the IT industry of India?

Sanjaya Baru answers, I am not sure how many understand the issues. Celebrities have views on such issues just to remain in the news!!

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Image: Barack Obama meets with Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters

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'Electoral college system in US is archaic'

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PAWAN asked, Is US Presidential Election truly a democratic seeing u may loose popular vote & still be president

Sanjaya Baru answers, That is a rare event, as it happened in 2000. But the electoral college system is archaic and needs reform.

abcd123 asked, How the world economies going to review after Obama's second term?

Sanjaya Baru answers, much would depend on how Obama handles the fiscal situation in the US. If the US economy stabilises, the world economy would also stabilise.

PAWAN asked, I think this election is beginning of caste based politics in US with Blacks, Hispanics, liberals & Immigrants supporting Democrats while Whites supporting Republicans. Is this end of Liberal vs Conservative

Sanjaya Baru answers, This is an interesting comment. But US politics has always been based on tapping into sectional interests and interest groups. But you are right that the importance of the Hispanic vote has gone up.

RockObama asked, What are the positives going forward for the us and the world, in lieu of the Obama's reelection.

Sanjaya Baru answers, One key positive is that there will be continuity and predictability in US policies over the next few weeks, since we have a re-elected and not a lame duck President in office!

nik asked, Sir, but why did the Latinos and young voters vote against Obama so emphatically, you think?

Sanjaya Baru answers, That is not what I saw reported. The Latino vote on the West Coast seemed to go Obama's way

VK asked, Is This victory significant for india

Sanjaya Baru answers, I would not say 'significant' because there is now a bipartisan consensus in the US on its policy towards India. But India is not a priority for the US right now. The focus will be on domestic economy, on problems with China, on the Middle East and on Europe, which is in crisis.

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Image: People wait to vote during the US presidential election at the School Without Walls polling station in Washington on Tuesday.
Photographs: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

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'Fiscal challenge more daunting for Obama'

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semiauto asked, Sir, many Indians wonder, every 4 years on seeing the graceful concession and acceptance speeches, why India too cannot have such a transfer of power. As someone associated with the powerful for years, what do you think is keeping our politics from being so inspiring, so dignified? Why do our politicians shy away from addressing the people in such a manner? I am sure in Nehru's time it was similar, but we seem to have lost it somewhere, isn't it?

Sanjaya Baru answers, Our politics have become far too divisive and personalised. Even in the US the campaign was very vicious and often lacked dignity, but in the end everyone behaves in a civilised manner. In India too most politicians are very civilised with each other in their personal interactions, it is only in the public that they are so offensive towards their adversaries

SKA asked, The road ahead for President Obama will be critical..the fiscal cliff and the Iran Nuclear Issue could realy put a stern test for the USA

Sanjaya Baru answers, The fiscal challenge is bigger. On Iran I expect to see a more reasonable stance by Obama in second term. He has been trying to arrive at a modus vivendi with Iran, but the campaign forced him to adopt tough positions. I expect the Iran issue to move towards some kind of a resolution. But the fiscal challenge is more daunting

SKA asked, So for the fist time we have a president who wins his bid, despite an unemployment level of 7% and above

Sanjaya Baru answers, Yes, but I think there the US voter accepted Bill Clinton's defence of Obama at the Democratic Convention. Clinton helped boost Obama's chances

C asked, When Obama is not so good for India. Why do you think that many Indian Americans supported Obama (As per polls).

Sanjaya Baru answers, Because most of them worry about their economic prospects in the US, and they felt he is better for the economy than Romney. Indian Americans vote as Americans, even if they have affection for India

Pawan2 asked, During last 6 presidential Elections incumbent President is Re-elected whether Clinton, Bush or Obama. Do u think US voters are confused or dnot dare to elect New leader. Is this a bad sign for mature democracy where President can have undue advantage.

Sanjaya Baru answers, a good question. Incumbency helps, but Bush Jr won a second term because of 9/11 and Obama won because Romney was a weak candidate

jk asked, any chnage in american asistance to third world (assisitance to multilateral agencies) to curb poverty???

Sanjaya Baru answers, The US has given very little bilateral aid, except for its military allies. US based NGOs give out more money than the government and that may be impacted by slower growth

Sanjaya Baru says, Thank you for those questions. Have a good day.


Image: Obama, who won a second term in office by defeating Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, waves as he addresses supporters during his election night victory rally in Chicago.
Photographs: Jim Bourg/Reuters

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