Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

from India Insight:

India votes for Obama as storm clouds gather at home

INDIAU.S. President Barack Obama is facing a storm of voter discontent but in India where he travels three days after this week's huge congressional elections, he's already a winner. More than seven out of 10 Indians endorse his leadership, saying they believe he will do the right thing in world affairs, a Pew poll released in late October showed.

Contrast that with his approval ratings at home just as he heads into the critical midterm election. More people disapprove of his job performance (47 percent) than the number who approve (45 percent), according to the latest CBS news/New York Times opinion poll.

It's not just Obama who gets the thumbs-up. Indians are generally well-disposed toward America even when the rest of the world is less inclined to. According to the Pew poll, nearly two-thirds (66 percent) express a favourable opinion of the U.S., although this is down from 76 percent last year. By contrast, only 51 percent Indians  rate long-time ally Russia favourably, and even fewer feel this way about the EU (36 percent) or China (34 percent).  Indeed, Indians don't even share the common belief that the United States has increasingly been acting on its own. Some (83 percent) said the U.S. takes the interests of countries like India into account when it makes foreign policy decisions -- the highest percentage among the 21 nations surveyed outside the U.S.

Quite extraordinary, the unequivocal vote of confidence in America even though the Obama administration has been more measured toward India than its predecessor; the strategic warmth that marked the Bush years having cooled off a bit.  It's quite possible that Obama's trip this week may turn out to be a game changer, but at the moment  for every positive aspect of their relationship, you can find another such as trade, climate change where they are on opposite sides.

Obama in India next month; ripples in the region


U.S. President Barack Obama takes part in a town hall meeting at Concord Community High School in Elkhart, Indiana, February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jim YoungU.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India is still a couple of weeks away and there is the huge U.S. election before then, but it has already set off ripples in the region. The Chinese have especially cottoned onto Obama’s Indian journey, fretting over what they see as a U.S. attempt to ring fence China by deepening ties with countries around it. And continent-size India with a population of over a billion and an economy growing at a clip just behind China’s is seen as a key element of that strategy of containment.

Qui Hao of the National Defense University, writes in the Global Times that while U.S. military alliances with Japan and South Korea form the backbone of the “strategic fence” around China, the “shell” is the partnership that Washington is building with India, Vietnam and other nations that have territorial disputes with China.