Why Obama has disappointed India
August 14th, 2012
05:19 PM ET

Why Obama has disappointed India

By Madhav Nalapat, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Madhav Nalapat holds the UNESCO Peace Chair at Manipal University in India. This is the latest in a series looking at how the world sees the U.S. election, and what the Obama presidency has meant for ties with other countries. The views expressed are the author's own.

Condoleezza Rice’s appointment as U.S. secretary of state in 2005 saw India become a priority for the George W. Bush administration. Indeed, in July that year, President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a nuclear deal that would free India of some of the technology and other restrictions first imposed on it after the 1974 Pokhran test.

While the center of gravity of the Clinton administration’s diplomacy towards India remained that country’s relationship with Pakistan, Bush expanded the dialogue to place emphasis on cooperation in space, military training, education and other sectors that had been neglected since the 1960s, when the U.S.-India partnership that helped bring about the Green Revolution in India dissolved because of Indira Gandhi’s alleged post-Allende obsession that the CIA was planning a similar fate for her. During the final couple of years of the Bush II presidency, it became easier for Indian scientists to visit the United States and for talks to commence on future hi-tech cooperation.

However, once Barack Obama came to office in 2009, and created an administration that seemed less about his own (stated) beliefs than an overall policy matrix best described as “Clinton Lite,” talks were replaced by talk. Obama was immensely successful in flattering Indian policymakers, for example by openly declaring (of course in India, rather than at U.N. headquarters) that Delhi merited a permanent seat at the Security Council. However, on the ground, the Clintonistas in agencies such as State, Commerce and Disarmament ensured that the welcome mat for India-U.S. technological cooperation got speedily replaced by the same worn rug that represented nowhere (unless, of course, if India followed South Africa in giving up its nuclear weapons). Conditions on military sales that were expected to be waived during the Bush II period, meanwhile, were reintroduced.

While U.S. military sales to India have increased, as have joint training missions, the placing of intrusive conditions on sale of weapons platforms, and a reluctance to offer anything other than dated U.S. models, has held back the military-to-military relationship, leaving it a mostly mercenary and opportunistic one, devoid of the broad strategic understanding and parameters that are needed to anchor any long-term relationship.

Interestingly, since the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition led by A.B. Vajpayee entered office in 1998, Delhi has, in effect, followed a policy of strategic retreat from its immediate neighborhood, in the expectation that the space vacated would get filled by Washington. Instead, it’s Beijing that has moved in. Today, in Nepal, Sri Lanka and increasingly the Maldives, primacy that was once India’s is exercised by China, which since at least the middle of the previous decade has seemingly had more influence over the Pakistan military than the United States. The absence of what may be described as a "bonding of fundamentals" that has characterized U.S.-India ties since Obama became president has led to a dilution of the post-1998 Indian acceptance of junior partner status to the U.S.

The dysfunction and hesitation on core strategic issues that has characterized U.S.-India relations since 2009 (despite the fact that in Singh, India arguably has one of the most U.S.-friendly prime ministers in Indian history) has been exploited by China to expand its regional influence substantially over the past three years. Having acted as if faithful toward the Europeanist view of the legitimate role of India (namely that it be a subsidiary power devoid of its own hi-technology skills and a seat at the diplomatic high table) President Obama is rapidly squandering the opportunity first afforded by Vajpayee and Singh of crafting a close strategic partnership between Delhi and Washington, a relationship that would be a nightmare to Beijing.

While Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to have clear views on much besides “prudent” tax planning, his just announced running mate has more than once spoken of the centrality of India in the international geopolitical calculus. Paul Ryan is clearly in favor of a return to the George W. Bush path of building a close partnership with India. Given his tenacity, there’s little doubt that he would ensure, at the very least, a return to the Bush II period, should his ticket get elected.

The question is, will it be too late? There’s considerable resentment in Delhi at U.S. foot dragging under Obama, and this has dampened the enthusiasm for closer ties. However,  for now, Manmohan Singh has until 2014 before his term ends, and hence the prospects for a genuine partnership still exist.

And what if Barack Obama gets re-elected? Will he accept that unless India gets added to Japan, the “jaw” that encloses the eastern coast of Asia from Vladivostok to Male will lack sufficient teeth to establish primacy in not simply the Indian Ocean, but the China seas?

As of now, there seems very little chance that the non-proliferation ayatollahs and the other NGO types that crafted so much policy for the Clintons have given up their grip on the imagination of President Obama. The result is likely to be the slipping away of any prospect of a meaningful U.S.-India alliance. The good news (if such it may be called) is that once again, the vacuum created by the United States may get filled by China, within whose policymaking groups there is increasing realization of the need to forge much closer ties with India.

Post by:
Topics: China • India • Mitt Romney • United States

soundoff (487 Responses)
  1. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

    Army is coming out of barracks in India. Not sure whether coup d 'etat or to control civil war ongoing there !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy/Quigley/LyndsieGraham/krm1007 ©™/Joe Collins/J. Foster Dulles

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      August 17, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  2. krm1007 ©™

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    August 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Reply
  3. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

    There is a massive blackout again in India. Bangla Deshi muslims are invading the country. India as we know it is finished. Hinduism was a cult and is history.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Reply
  4. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

    There is anti aircraft firing heard in bhopal, India. Apparently, Chinese are also crossing over. Bangla deshis from east, chinese from north. Pakistan will now probably deal the final blow from west. hare om hare om......hare krishna hare ram.....dum maro dum

    August 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Reply
  5. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

    folks, Mumbai has been taken over by the talibans. Ajmal Khasab is the new commissioner of mumbai. champagne is flowing on the streets in celebration.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy/Quigley/LyndsieGraham/krm1007 ©™/Joe Collins/J. Foster Dulles

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      August 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Reply
  6. Jessup Germaine

    I heard Katrina Kaif is dancing in the streets in bollywood celebrating the end of brahmins

    August 17, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Reply
  7. krm1007 © ™

    We continue to be of the opinion that India is a zero sum event in history and that a break up of sorts is the optimum way to maximize its potential for the people. The current events in India reinforce our belief that the inevitable implosion of India has begun and the beginning of the end state is upon us. Whether that will be nirvana that most of us believe it will, is yet to be seen. But this we will say. This defragmentation of India will unleash boundless opportunities and uber economic demand that will be beneficial to US and Europe and help pull them out of current recessionary malaise. We pray for the events to unfold peacefully and in a harmonious manner for the people of India and its neighbors.

    August 18, 2012 at 3:36 am | Reply
    • Pete Black

      Just like big banks we need to look at big countries that are unmanageable and plan orderly fragmentation. Your concept of resultant economic demand is an interesting one. I discussed that with my students in the business school and we are writing term papers on it as it applies to India and quanifying benefits.

      August 18, 2012 at 8:53 am | Reply
  8. krm1007 ©™

    "Experimental Democracy" has failed in India. An experiment that was being shoved down India's throat by western countries too eager to propagate their own values on a country that was trying to decolonize itself while trying to shed the communist skin of being a Soviet ally. India was thus trapped. What has become evident now is that this "Experimental Democracy" has marginalized the country. The marginalized groups of the country – Dalits and ‘backward’ castes/classes, indigenous ‘tribal’ people and religious minorities have been disenfranchised. "The belief that corruption is the important issue in the country is shared only by the minority living in urban areas and towns who have been beneficiaries of economic liberalization policies mandated by western countries. The most important challenges of Indian society remain as follows: justice, social and economic equality and equal access to certain standards of life for all Indians. “While India seems too eager to please its western masters and put on a progressive and softer face for CNN for public consumption, people see through it. The consequences of this "Band – Aid" approach will be brutal for India geo-politically when it realizes that the GDP statistics that it has been relying to gage its progress has not amounted to much in the long run.

    We have now seen civil disobedience in India of above. The entire country is in flames and today morning the unrest and protests have spread to Chennai and Pune also besides, Goa, Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Assam etc.

    August 18, 2012 at 8:27 am | Reply
    • Pete Black

      Sir, democracy seldom works in large populated and illiterate society. We were trying to sell India to american public. We have failed in the long run but got a good ride for the Afghan/Iraq wars. We were using the Indians to do our dirty work in these wars.

      August 18, 2012 at 8:49 am | Reply
    • Gilden

      It appears to me that India is in state of civil war ! Who could have thought.

      August 18, 2012 at 8:56 am | Reply
    • krm1007 ©™

      I also believe it was a bad idea to grant muslims a separate State, now called Pakistan. Wish Jinnah was aborted by his mother.

      August 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  9. Joseph McCarthy/Quigley/LyndsieGraham/krm1007 ©™/Joe Collins/J. Foster Dulles/Marine5484

    I am a useless piece of camel dung. I post anti American, anti GB, anti semite, anti India, anti modern anything because I am a good moooooslem. I steal people's monikers because I am so ashamed of myself and post the most stupid comment. When people get angry with me, I claim insanity. I am the same guy.

    August 18, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
    • Gary T

      What a shame that India had to rsesort to media/social networking censorship to control the ongoing civil war. Apparently, text messaging etc. has been shut down. Just like in Libya and Syria and Iran. Americans need to distance themselves from such a country with socialist/communist tendencies. Obama needs to be careful that the backlash from american voters does not effect him in the prez elections.

      August 18, 2012 at 8:41 am | Reply
      • Martha

        Human rights, women's rights and freedom of speech are the cornerstone of american value system. We cannot have pseudo allies like Indian hindus who flaunt these value systems time and again. We need to part ways with Indians. I have sent a message to my congressional delegation that I do not support India on suppressing the minorities and expect same from them if they want my support.

        August 18, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Krishnamurthy

      I have to disagree with you. First, in hindu culture nothing is useless particulalry camel dung. For example, we Indians consider cow dung as cornerstone of our domestic policy. Hindus in India smile with happiness as a large cow craps on the floor of their home. Now, with regards to the "anti" theory you presented ... these are all mutually exclusive. For instance, India based on hinduism is a cult unlike Chirstianity, Islam and Judaism which are ways of life and monotheistic. So

      August 18, 2012 at 9:01 am | Reply
      • Krishnamurthy

        So I would not get too emotional or vitriolic about it and but try to think my thoughts through before I post it on this forum and look like an idiot, Sir.

        August 18, 2012 at 9:05 am |
      • Krishnamurthy

        Both my comments are in response to @Joseph McCarthy et al.....

        August 18, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  10. Joseph McCarthy/Quigley/LyndsieGraham/krm1007 ©™/Joe Collins/J. Foster Dulles/Marine5484

    I am a useless piece of camel dung. I post anti American, anti GB, anti semite, anti India, anti modern anything because I am a good moooooslem. I steal people's monikers because I am so ashamed of myself and post the most stupid comment. When people get angry with me, I claim insanity. I am the same guy. I pretend to be others because I hate and hate and hate and I wish to spread that hate and hate and hate.

    August 18, 2012 at 9:23 am | Reply
    • LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

      Is there a correlation between hinduzzzz and dung? You seem to be obsessed by it.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Reply
    • LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

      on the other hand, there are established facts between pig poops and Islam, we Muslim win you ALL loose haha.

      August 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Reply
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    thank you thank you Muhammed for such a fine customs.

    August 18, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply
    • LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

      What do Jerry Sandusky and Mahatma Gandhi have in common? Being Pedophiles. Gandhi used to bang young underage boys two at a time while spinning wheels at night. Typiclk hindu dna of being bacha baaz. Let us exhume Gandhi from ashes and perform HIV aids test . He is a disgrace to india nad hinduzzzz

      August 18, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  12. deniz boro

    There were 3-4 lucritive markets left after the global crises. One of them was İndia. Hence it was not realy so hard to predict which film got the Oscar a few years ago. Bollywood took over Holywood eversince but did not get another Oscar. That must have been the reason for dissipointment. (Mind you Mansoon Wedding was a great film)

    August 18, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Reply
  13. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

    HINDU GODDESS PANCHALI
    This goddess was married to five brothers. Which one would become the legitimate father of his child should she have one? Dr Charles (renowned author and an authority on India) says that instances of incest are common in Hindu scriptures.

    August 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Reply
    • Hank

      What? She being banged by five brothers!!! Only in hinduism cult.

      August 18, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  14. Obelisk

    There are no two ways around it. India needs to be sliced and diced into independent states.

    August 18, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  15. Educated Pakistanis

    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Most of the threatening mobile phone text messages and website images that spread panic among migrants from cities in the south and west of India last week originated in Pakistan, India's interior ministry said on Saturday.
    Thousands of students and workers from India's northeast fled Mumbai, Bangalore and other cities, fearing retaliation for recent violence against Muslims in Assam, one of the states in their far-flung corner of the country.
    The false rumors of Muslim revenge attacks were fueled by threats posted on social media websites and spread through text messages. Migrants were also alarmed by misleading images that purported to show victims of mass killings.
    "After checking and verifying we are saying, with responsibility, that the bulk of SMSes (text messages) spreading rumors about the northeast region have come from Pakistan," an interior ministry spokesman said, declining to be named for security reasons.
    Clashes between indigenous people in Assam and Muslim settlers from neighboring Bangladesh have killed 75 people and displaced more than 400,000.
    More than 30,000 people from the northeast may have fled cities in the south and west, many of them on special extra trains that had been laid on, media reports said on Saturday.
    Ringed by China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, India's northeast is home to more than 200 ethnic and tribal groups. Their facial features make them stand out in other states and many migrants from the region are considered Chinese or Nepali.
    The ministry spokesman did not say who might have sent the text messages and posted the website images.
    Arch-rivals India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars since their independence 65 years ago, regularly accuse each other of provocative acts.
    There was no immediate reaction from Islamabad.
    (Reporting by Manoj Kumar; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

    August 18, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Reply
    • krm1007 © ™

      I could not disagree with you more. You are looking at India's problems through the wrong prism. That of Indian government which is on life support system blaming Pakistan for all the ills in Indian society. Let's face it, India is a decadent culture and economy on the verge of collapse. India has become a dinosaur. A Smithsonian specimen. Like humpty dumpty even USA, NATO and the entire free world are having a tough time holding it together. Living in the shadows of Pakistan, defined by China, haunted by Kashmir and punctuated by Terror Organizations such as Shiv Sena, India is struggling to find a meaning for its existence and a place in the new world order. Here is my take on the ongoing civil war in India and its imminent disintergration.

      "Experimental Democracy" has failed in India. An experiment that was being shoved down India's throat by western countries too eager to propagate their own values on a country that was trying to decolonize itself while trying to shed the communist skin of being a Soviet ally. India was thus trapped. What has become evident now is that this "Experimental Democracy" has marginalized the country. The marginalized groups of the country – Dalits and ‘backward’ castes/classes, indigenous ‘tribal’ people and religious minorities have been disenfranchised. "The belief that corruption is the important issue in the country is shared only by the minority living in urban areas and towns who have been beneficiaries of economic liberalization policies mandated by western countries. The most important challenges of Indian society remain as follows: justice, social and economic equality and equal access to certain standards of life for all Indians. “While India seems too eager to please its western masters and put on a progressive and softer face for CNN for public consumption, people see through it. The consequences of this "Band – Aid" approach will be brutal for India geo-politically when it realizes that the GDP statistics that it has been relying to gage its progress has not amounted to much in the long run.

      The disenchantment of minorities is evident by the recent uprising. From Bangalore to Mumbai, to Goa to Kerala and Chennai and Pune not to forget Assam and onto New Delhi ..... this is a premonition of epic proportions. We are witnessing the implosion of India..some will grasp it now while others will need to see it in the rear view mirror.

      August 18, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Reply
    • Sammy

      Lordy, have mercy. It appears Pakistan controls the destiny of India !! Can Indians get real please?

      August 18, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Reply
  16. Gerald

    Since the comments on this article were first written, India has witnessed the beginning of its end in front of our eyes. India is in state of civil war. The country is burning while Manmohan is fiddling. It is indded sad. Cults seldom survive in the long run as someone had previously commented so rightly.

    August 18, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Reply
    • Tommy

      We witnessing India's meltdown, unfortunately.

      August 19, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  17. Global Santa Claus

    C'mon we are NOT the world's Santa Claus.. MAYBE WE ARE DISAPPOINTED WITH INDIA. India can do a lot more to reach out to the American people if they truly want good relations instead of trying to squeeze our leaders for trade concession when ever the chance comes up

    August 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Reply
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  21. LetUsBeObjective

    Giving away jobs to another country by any country is like the nation giving away large number of their women & becoming gay, because the men are not meeting requirements.

    What if the whole nation becomes gay, it will be end of America.

    Just like a small number of gays cannot cause the population to wipe out, a small number of jobs can also be outsourced without wiping out the population.

    Outsourcing your jobs is not normal for any country, because, outsourcing is unidirectional by its very nature.

    So how can it be normal, something which has happened in only one direction, & there is no equilibrium.

    The underlying cause for outsourcing is the potential difference caused by poverty & affluence, not lack of skill,

    There would have been no outsourcing, had this poverty affluence potential difference not existed.

    But despite the uninterrupted unidirectional flow over number of years, there seems to be no end to the huge outflow from America to India.

    Outsourcing would have been a normal act, if million workers were going out & million coming in, then the underlying cause would not have been huge difference, money wise. Outsourcing with Ireland is a normal act. It is bi directional.

    Even, outsourcing of jobs to India in smaller numbers is okay, just like it is okay for few people to become gay.

    The root cause of outsourcing is that the manpower is not trained according to the requirement of the business.

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    May 20, 2013 at 1:27 am | Reply
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