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What is Obama holding up his sleeve?

Last updated on: November 04, 2010 18:05 IST

The visits may not be a paradigm shift in New Delhi foreign policy but a cautious forward step toward a more global role as seen by experts here, says Arab journalist Dr Waiel Awwad.

The visit of United States President Barack Obama to India will be full of good wishes from the US to the Indian people and with his personal touch he will try to woo the popular imagination in favour of US policy toward South Asia.

He is not only a good orator, intellectual but the only American President who understands Asian values. He spent a good time in Indonesia and because of his African connection; his speech at the joint session of the Parliament will be the landmark of his visit.

Staying at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai is more than a symbolic gesture but a commitment of the American administration in its fight against global terrorism and in South Asia in particular where Washington would like to see a more proactive role for New Delhi. The impact and the outcome of the visit, will be felt later since the vast majority here are wary of American intentions after decades of suspicion

It may not be a paradigm shift in New Delhi foreign policy but a cautious forward step toward a more global role seen by many think tanks here.

The visit comes at a crucial juncture at the global affairs. It differs from other visits by his predecessors as the world witnessed tremendous changes from the Bush Doctrine – the Af-Pak policy, unilateralism and shift in the American administration from the foreign policy centric to other priorities of domestic concern at the social and economic levels.

The outcome of the visit will be calculated in the number of jobs the President will be able to generate from the lucrative platter he is ready to offer to India, so he can improve his popularity back home, amid political uncertainty after losing the mid-term election.

Hence Washington will be looking for a closer ties with New Delhi as a partner at equal footing and will put a mechanism to satisfy both the parties because the commonality are more between both two countries at many fronts regionally and globally such as regional conflicts, counter terrorism, security cooperation, global order, fighting poverty, recognition of each other needs and interests.

It is a multi-faceted relationship between the two largest democracies in the world, but only with a strong sustainable economy will they be able to contribute to peace and security in many conflict zones without much of compromise on their own interest.

But for this to gain momentum, it all depend on what President Obama is holding up in his sleeve. India's wish list is long and overdue. New Delhi would like to listen to President Obama pledge for a seat at the UN Security Council in a well equipped and reformed UN body to serve the new world order. Removal of the Indian entities: Bharat Dynamic Ltd, ISRO, DRDO, DAE from the US Entities List. Also technology transfer and induction into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

On the other hand, the US would like to see India tilting toward its doctrine, ink more military contracts, open up its markets for the American companies and adapt to American foreign policy toward regional players like China, Pakistan and Iran.

New Delhi look east policy is considered a major shift to be out of the chestnut of South Asia affairs, so much so as to worry Beijing. More so after the visit of Dr Manmohan Singh to Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam, which culminated in his attending the ASEAN Summit, that will make India`s economy more integrated with those of East Asian as Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said.

But the closer ties of India with Tokyo,  Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Seoul raised many eyebrows and much discomfort among Chinese leaders who may see New Delhi's move as part of US policy to contain China. Many countries in the region have disputes with China and are apprehensive of its widespread expansion of economic and military powers.

It will be worth to watch the convergences of views between the US and India towards the look east policy and how far the trade and military cooperation will go and how much India will yield to Obama`s platter specially to ingredients of vital interest .

Dr Waiel Awwad is a senior Arab journalist based in South Asia.

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Dr Waiel Awwad
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