Indian views on President Obama’s visit

This week, President Obama will visit India for the first time since taking office. What are commentators and experts in India saying about this historic visit?

The Rising Powers Initiative has compiled a summary of recent news and op-eds from major Indian newspapers about Indian expectations of Obama’s visit and the future of India-U.S. relations:

There is a sense of disappointment foreshadowing the visit, as it appears that the U.S. is more interested in an economic agenda rather than strengthening strategic ties with India.The Indian Express reports that a personal letter from President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveyed America’s expectations of the visit but did not mention issues important to India. Commentators lament that China and Pakistan loom larger on the U.S. radar screen, and that the official visit has an undue business focus, when the private sector will carry on with expanding India-U.S. business ties anyway.

Nevertheless, the general public likes Obama. A spring 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center found that more than 70% of Indians have confidence in the American president, and about two-thirds express a favorable opinion of the United States.

Meanwhile, leftist parties and commentators are criticizing Obama’s visit as part of an imperialist strategy to open India’s markets and pit India against China; the Communist Party has called for nationwide protests.

There are widespread calls for US support of a permanent seat for India on the U.N. Security Council.  However, C. Raja Mohan, security affairs editor of The Indian Express, sounds a word of caution: If India does secure a permanent UNSC seat, “Is Delhi prepared to accept the burdens that come with the rapid improvement of its international standing?” Not only is the Foreign Office lacking in resources and coordination, but India’s strategic outlook would have to shift from its longstanding “strategic autonomy” to a new global responsibility, says Mohan.

K. Subrahmanyam, prominent strategic affairs analyst in India, says that “Obama does not have much of an option but to make India its leading partner” because the two nations share the same democratic values. He believes that a “network of partnerships” between the U.S. and India is necessary to “counter a value system” consisting of the challenges of jihadism and China’s one-party authoritarianism.

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About risingpowers
Sigur Center for Asian Studies Elliott School of International Affairs The George Washington University

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