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Photo courtesy: Press Information Bureau, Government of India

Photo courtesy: Press Information Bureau, Government of India

Four More Years for Obama: View from India

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Editor’s Note:

With the U.S. Presidential elections behind us, our colleagues in India share their thoughts on what the results mean to the world’s largest democracy.

 

By Rakesh Thukral

Pre-poll media coverage and conversations indicated an overwhelming Indian support for a second-term Obama Presidency. This has now become reality, and India’s reaction has been broadly positive.

The Indian Prime Minister shares a good rapport with President Obama, and was quick in sending a congratulatory message. Leading Indian business and industry associations, such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, have also greeted Obama’s victory with optimism, and they hope that the second term will see bilateral ties soar to a higher level.

India’s optimism stems from its rising global profile – largely a result of sustained economic growth. The window of opportunity for greater engagement with U.S. leadership opened with the partial liberalization of India’s economy in 1991. In addition, India shares core democratic values with the U.S.

President Obama has been viewed as a close partner to India. The Indian PM was the first leader to pay a State Visit to Washington after Mr. Obama’s election, and President Obama’s 2010 visit to India was amongst his longest foreign trips. Speaking at the Indian Parliament, President Obama won over lawmakers by saying, “India is not simply emerging; India has already emerged.” When President Obama ended his speech with the Hindi “Jai Hind” (long live India), the Members of Parliament rose in applause, and Speaker Lok Sabha called the President’s visit to Parliament “a celebration of democracy”.

President Obama also made clear his priorities of enhancing Indo-U.S. business ties, and while in India, he engaged with the nation’s most important stakeholders including politicians, businessmen and students. In addition, the American military operation culminating in the death of Osama Bin Laden inside Pakistan, and the renewed focus on terrorist organizations based there, are seen to be a vindication of India’s stance on Pakistan, and also point to a likely ongoing defense partnership between the United States and Pakistan.

But despite the many positives, there will still be challenges ahead. Given U.S. domestic pressures to retain (and create) jobs are expected to continue, there may be some fallout on the Indian outsourcing business. In addition, India’s reluctance to open up its economy fully has caused frustration among the U.S. business community.

But because of India’s market and its strategic importance to US policy in the Asia-Pacific region, it is expected that the second Obama Administration will continue to work towards expanding trade ties with India. Before visiting India in 2010, Obama made it clear to his constituency that the visit would generate 50,000 U.S. jobs, as a result of trade deals to be forged in course of the visit.

Despite some hitches, Indo-U.S. cooperation is a bipartisan issue in the U.S., and there is broad stateside agreement over the need for stronger ties with India. In order to do so, the U.S. may well put pressure on India to get its act together on economic reforms before we get into our election mode for 2014.

Rakesh Thukral is chief operating officer of Edelman India

Feature photo from Press Information Bureau, Government of India

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