The next two weeks will be full of atmospherics and inanities linked to the visit of US President Barack Obama. Indians are known to derive satisfaction from symbolism rather than substance. When Diwali was supposedly celebrated by George W Bush’s White House — a celebration in which the US president did not participate — we went into raptures. When Rajan Zed of Nevada was called to chant Vedic hymns at a congressional opening, we were ecstatic.
Similarly, when Obama visits India next month, we will drool over Michelle buying Kanjeevaram sarees or Obama savouring a paratha at a Delhi dhaba — or some such meaningless events. There is a move to take Michelle to the red-light areas of Mumbai to get a feel of “inclusive” growth. Imagine Gursharan Kaur being paraded in Soho in London as part of her itinerary. Sikhs are pleading with Obama to visit the Golden Temple, even if he merely wears a baseball cap to cover his head.
This is how we barter away our self-respect, even as our civil aviation minister Praful Patel is charged a hefty fee (£480) for using the lounge at Heathrow airport. Our high commissioner in London had to hurriedly pay for it. In India, even head clerks and deputy assistant undersecretaries of the Anglo-Saxon establishments command red-carpet treatment and free VVIP lounges at airports.
When Obama arrives, he is going to come as a wounded tiger from a declining empire. His party of change would, by then, have lost its last dime in the congressional elections to be held on November 2. He could well end up as a one-term president. When American presidents are hurt at home, they try to show off abroad. Nixon made his China trip when his fortunes were going downhill back home. Clinton did mischief in J&K and Bush in Iraq.
Democratic presidents come across as more sanctimonious humbugs and self-righteous compared to Republicans. The latter just bother about business; the former want to be seen as backing causes like human rights — as long as it is done abroad.
What should our agenda be with Obama? First, we should ask him to remove every Indian entity which is on the banned export list of the US. Second, if he even mentions Kashmir, we should request him to carry on to Indonesia — his next stop. We should recognise Bangladesh as the successor country to a united Pakistan because of its size and the number of members it had in parliament before the break-up. If at all anyone has a say in Kashmir, Bangladesh as the successor entity has a more legitimate case, Obama should be told.
Third, we should insist on the need to split Pakistan into many more countries in the interests of world peace. Pakistan’s army is the world’s terror central and a constant threat to world peace. The David Headley saga reveals that US intelligence and enforcement agencies such as the FBI, CIA and DEA have been infiltrated and compromised by the Pakistani ISI and its creations like the LeT.
The billions given to appease Pakistan will not help world peace and will only increase global terror. Hillary Clinton says her heart is in Pakistan and one wishes her a hale and healthy heart. We should remember that her husband, through Robin Raphael, was instrumental in creating the Hurriyat in the Kashmir Valley.
The fourth point is that India should not bother with the talk-shop called the UN Security Council. It has lost its purpose and role. It helps some Indian government bureaucrats to have untaxed pensions. The only important member is China and we can deal with it directly. Becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council is not exactly a big payoff for us.
Many UN agencies are a joke. What is one to make of the fact that Saudi Arabia and Libya are on the human rights panels, and Pakistan is heading the International Atomic Energy Agency (no doubt, by rotation), after proliferating nuclear weapons and sponsoring terror.
The fifth point we need to tell Obama is that India will not look at China through the US’s lenses. We will deal with China on our terms. We have no need to play sidekick to the US when it deals with China. A British political leader during World War II is reported to have said that Britain would fight the Germans to the last Indian. We do not want to be in the same situation with regard to US-China conflicts.
The sixth point is that any enlarged scope for US companies to do business in India should be linked to India getting unrestricted access to the US markets for onshore and offshore software services, including visas for our professionals. Every additional Coke bottle consumed in India or insurance policy sold should be dependent on how the US puts Pakistan on leash. We need to unashamedly and unequivocally link commerce with US pressure on Pakistan on terrorism.
Declining empires do listen to rising powers if they want market access. We need to ask Obama to address our real concerns instead of getting carried away with all the soft praise he may shower on us. We have to grow up.