Monday, November 08, 2010

US Media on President Obama's India Visit

US President Obama with Indian Pime Minister Manmohan Singh
New Orleans, Louisiana: There is a famous line in American lexicon: When the President fails at home, he travels abroad to succeed! As President Obama starts his 10-day Asian tour starting with India just after his party lost majority in the House of Representatives, the saying still rings true for most Americans. 

Unlike Indian media which has gone euphoric on President Obama's visit, the US media tends to view Obama's India visit as a "routine Presidential obligation" and there is no front-page sensationalism and hype. Only a small segment of media has came out against his visit to India. Here are some of the key issues raised by American media about President Obama's India visit:

Indo-Pak Relations and Afghanistan:

New York Times in its November 5 edition says that President Obama will not push India "hard" on the issue of Pakistan though senior American military commanders strongly believe India must disavow from an "obscure military doctrine" which they believe is fuelling tension between India and Pakistan thus affecting American war efforts in Afghanistan. The doctrine is officially known as "Cold Start" which means a plan to deploy new ground forces that could strike inside Pakistan quickly in the event of a terrorist attack or conflict. India has always denied the very idea of a "Cold Start". New York Times has termed this issue as "victory for India" since President Obama may not touch on this issue when he meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday. The newspaper also narrates the Indian point-of-view that both the countries should focus on broader issues including "commercial ties, military sales, climate change and regional security". And that US must stop looking at India from the lens of Pakistan and the war in Afghanistan. 

Miami Herald quotes Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush, thatIndians' frustration about the United States in connection with the 26/11 attacks had been receding but the recent Headly developments gave them a new life. CNN says that terror battle will likely be the top Obama agenda in India.

False reports in Indian Press:

American media has slammed the reports in a section of Indian Press that US government would be spending approximately 200 million dollars (Rs. 900 crores)  per day on President Obama's India visit! New York Timesblogger Michael D. Shear has termed this report as "false". Writing on White House blog, Dan Pfeiffer, the communications director, called the story as “a long trip from reality” and said the rumour so far overstates the amount actually to be spent that “it’s not even close to being true.” The story which originated from India has found some takers in pro-Republican American press. Fox News host Glenn Beck calculated the total 10-day cost of Obama's Asia tour as just “$2 billion"! Pentagon has termed this figure as "comical". One US website Fact Check says that the per day figure of 200 million dollars would be higher than the daily cost of entire Afghanistan war!

Military assistance to Pakistan:

Voice of America has raised Indian concerns about US policies particularly its billions of dollars in military assistance to Pakistan. It quotes Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary who says, "If it is used for fighting terrorism, we have no complaint. If its is for using arms to fight India, we have a real problem." It must be noted that Obama administration has pledged to increase its military aid to Pakistan to $2 billion per year to help the country fight terrorism.  Voice of America also says that delicate subjects like violence between security forces and separatists in Kashmir will remain off the table.

Economy and Job Creation:

A large section of American Press has highlighted that creating jobs and bolstering US economy would be the topmost agenda of President Obama. This assumption is rooted in Obama's statement just before leaving for India. He said, "One of the keys to creating jobs is to open markets to American goods made by American workers. Our prosperity depends not just on consuming things, but also on being the maker of things." He also said he wants to double American exports by 2016. Washington Post said that President Obama has left for Asia tour "preaching jobs and open market". The newspaper asked whether India is a "neglected power". It says that the value of US goods exported to India has quadrupled to $17 billion annually over the past 7 years. It said, "Indian officials want Obama, who will address India's Parliament in New Delhi, to take the next step by expanding military-to-military relationships, removing business barriers such as the increase in US visa fees." USA Today says that Obama's agenda in Asia will be the same as it is in America: job creation.

"Unnecessary Trip" to India:

Conservative television host Glenn Beck has come down heavily on Obama's visit to India terming it "unnecessary". In a programme on Fox News he provocatively said, "The President has blocked off 800 hotel rooms. Do we still - do even know if he's travelling with 3, 000 people? Do we know if that's true?" He also said that Obama is visiting Mumbai just in time for Diwali, the festival of lights. "I don't know if that's why he is going, you know? I don't know if that's why we are paying all of this money, for lights," he said. He also drew parallels between 9/11 and 26/11. "He'll also be talking to survivor of the Mumbai attacks. I personally think he could probably spend less money and talk to the 9/11, you know, family victims here."

Inquilab, November 8, 2010

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