Wednesday, October 29, 2008



The world has seen made-in-the-Internet scholars, made-in-the-Internet stock-brokers, made-in-the-Internet lovers and even made-in-the-Internet terrorists.

If Senator Barrack Obama is elected the President of the United States on November 4, the US and the rest of the world will be seeing for the first time a made-in-the-Internet President.

The way his advisers and entourage have effectively used the Internet to make him known to the people, to collect funds for him and to project him as a right-thinking person, who will take the US into a brave new world, will form the theme of many likely best-sellers if he wins the elections, as he seems destined to do.

Large sections of the American people are in a state of guilt----- over having suppressed the Blacks for so many years, over having supported President Bush and his Neo Conservatives in their Iraq adventure under the pretext of removing non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and over so many other perceived wrongs of the Bush Administration.

What better way of ridding themselves of their gnawing sense of guilt than to vote for a candidate, who is an Afro-American and who promises to rid the US of the legacies of the Bush administration. Just by casting their vote for him on November 4, they would in one stroke be able to get rid of all their guilt feelings and start a new life as Americans. So they think. As they stand before the voting machine, it will be their hour of the confessional ---- that they were wrong in having supported Bush.

His advisers and entourage have skillfully exploited the widely prevalent mood of guilt in the US to project him as a transformational figure (to quote Colin Powell) the like of which comes but rarely. Vote for Obama and vote for all that that is good and great in the US.

The liberals---- in the civil society, in the media, among the opinion-makers--- have made Obama seem a cult figure. For them, it will be blasphemous to ask questions about his past, to find out who he really is.

Had a white been the Democratic candidate like Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate, they would not have had the least qualms in researching into his past and in dissecting every inch of him.

How can one do it for a transformational, cult figure? Cult figures have to be accepted as such without questions. How can one do that for a Black, who is on the threshold of history by being the first Black to become the President of the US? To question his past and his credentials would be racist. So the American voters have been told.

Can anyone in the US or in the rest of the world assert that he knows Obama well ---- his past and his present and what he will be in future? Future is the child of the past.

Obama is a mix of two vintages. The old pre-2006 vintage and the new post-2006 one. All his admirers know Obama of the new vintage. How many know Obama of the old vintage?

Very few. There is no desire to find out either.

Obama of the new vintage has nothing but the highest words of praise for India and Indians. He wants to continue with Bush’s policy of promoting a strategic relationship with India.

What about Obama of the old vintage? Cautious and reserved in exuding any warmth for India and the Indians lest his Pakistani friends and constituents misunderstand.

It is said that as a student he had more Pakistani friends than Indians. He felt more comfortable in the company of the Pakistanis than Indians. It was his choice and nobody could grudge it.

It was at the invitation of one of his Pakistani friends that he visited Islamabad, Karachi and Hyderabad (Sind) in the 1980s. Nobody can hold that against him.

As an Indian, one will be but human if one felt troubled that he did not disclose this till he became the Presidential candidate. He disclosed this----as if in passing--- when it was alleged that he did not understand the Islamic world and its divisions. He mentioned his visit to Pakistan to show that he knew about the divisions in Islam, about the Shia-Sunni differences.

Why did he keep mum on his visit to Pakistan till this question was raised? Has he disclosed all the details regarding his Pakistan visit? Was it as innocuous as made out by him----to respond to the invitation of a Pakistani friend or was there something more to it?

One would have expected the US journalists to have gone into this, to have quizzed him on it. But, they didn’t.

As I read about Obama’s visit to Pakistan in the 1980s, I could not help thinking of dozens of things. Of the Afghan jihad against communism. Of the fascination of many Afro-Americans for the jihad. Of the visits of a stream of Afro-Americans to Pakistan to feel the greatness of the jihad. Of their fascination for Abdullah Azzam, who came to Pakistan in the 1980s and started teaching in the International Islamic University in Islamabad. Of the fascination of some Afro-Americans for him. Of the frequent visits of Cat Stevens, the pop singer, to Pakistan and of his fascination for Islam and the on-going jihad. Of his conversion to Islam.

One might think that I am morbid in entertaining such thoughts and questions in my mind. But morbidity is understandable when one has a feeling that one has not been told the whole story, but only a part of it.

It is the right of the Americans to decide who should be their President. It is my right to worry about the implications of their decision for the rest of the world, including India. (29-10-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )


san said...

Obama's election may portend negatively for India, since he is surrounded by Atlanticists like Brzezinski and Albright, who have an extremely biased agenda.

We should be extremely worried about people like Brzezinski becoming ascendant in foreign policy once again. Such advisors will only tilt US foreign policy in directions that would bring further strife to SouthAsia. I hope we Indians don't want to see a return to the dark days of the 1980s and early/mid 1990s.

Atlanticists like Brzezinski are also opposed to globalization, which they see as a phenomenon which threatens to swamp/eclipse the primacy of trans-Atlantic US-European ties. As you know, Brzezinski's trilateralism is predicated on specific bedrock alliances between US, Europe and nominally Japan (though the main intent was US+Europe -- Japan was merely added as as a 3rd pillar because of its economic muscle)

Obama's tendency towards protectionist economic policies, as dictated by his poor working-class political base, would also be used to inimical effect against India.

I am hoping that Condoleeza Rice will not totally disappear from the Washington scene, but will instead continue to move around in Washington circles.

I am hoping that not all African-Americans will blindly acquiesce to the Euro-centrism of the Atlanticists like Brzezinski, and that as more African-Americans follow Obama into the corridors of power in Washington, that some will push for the US to move beyond its incestuous embrace with Europe, and cultivate closer ties with non-European countries. I think that Dr Rice could help play a part in this, and Indians should continue to maintain relations with her.

The Atlanticists must not be allowed to win the day.

nri2008 said...

There was a good column in The Indian Express newspaper by Prof.Raja Mohan reproduced here :
Indian Express
Barack Obama's Kashmir thesis!

C Raja Mohan Posted online: Nov 03, 2008 at 1431 hrs
Singapore, November 3:

As Obamamania grips much of the world, including India, the man who might become the next President of the United States has ideas on Jammu and Kashmir that should cause some concern to New Delhi.

Given its vastly improved relations with the United States and Pakistan, India has no reason to press the panic button. Yet it should be quickly flagging its concerns with the foreign policy team of Senator Barack Obama, should he be declared the Forty-fourth President of the United States on Tuesday night.

In an interview broadcast on MSNBC, Obama suggested that his administration would encourage India to solve the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan, so that Islamabad can better cooperate with the United States on Afghanistan. Obama’s definitive thesis comes in three parts.

“The most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan is actually deal with Pakistan. And we’ve got to work with the newly elected government there (Pakistan) in a coherent way that says, terrorism is now a threat to you. Extremism is a threat to you. We should — try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they (Pakistan) can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants”. India entirely agrees with the first two elements but should strongly object to the third.

Put simply, the Obama thesis says: the sources of Afghan instability are in Pakistan; those in turn are linked to Islamabad’s conflict with New Delhi, at the heart of which is Jammu and Kashmir.

For months now, New Delhi has been assessing Obama’s seeming hard-line towards Pakistan, including a threat to bomb terrorist bases there if Islamabad failed to act against the al-Qaida and the Taliban. India, however, has paid less attention to the carrot

Obama was offering Pakistan—American activism on Kashmir in return for credible cooperation in Afghanistan.

Obama’s remarks on Kashmir are by no means off the cuff. They have been remarkably consistent since he launched his presidential campaign. In the first comprehensive articulation of his world view in the journal Foreign Affairs during the summer of 2007, Obama argued, “If Pakistan can look towards the east (India) with confidence, it will be less likely to believe its interests are best advanced through cooperation with the Taliban.”

If Obama’s Kashmir thesis becomes the policy, many negative consequences might ensue. For one, an American diplomatic intervention in Kashmir will make it impossible for India to pursue the current serious back channel negotiations with Pakistan on Kashmir, the first since 1962-63.

India and Pakistan have made progress in recent years, because their negotiations have taken place in a bilateral context. Third party involvement will rapidly shrink the domestic political space for India on Kashmir negotiations.

For another, the prospect that the U S might offer incentives on Kashmir is bound to encourage the Pakistan Army to harden its stance against the current peace process with India.

Finally, the sense that an Obama Administration will put Jammu & Kashmir on the front burner would give a fresh boost to militancy in Kashmir and complicate the current sensitive electoral process there. Kashmiri separatist lobbies in Washington have already embraced Obama’s remarks.

To be sure, Indo-U S relations are much stronger today to suggest a return to the discordant early 1990s, when Kashmir topped the bilateral agenda. Yet, New Delhi cannot ignore that Pakistan is likely to be at the very top of a President Obama’s national security agenda and his perception of a linkage between Kashmir and Afghanistan.

India’s chattering classes may be carried away by Obama’s talk of ‘change’ in Washington. On Kashmir at least, India badly needs ‘continuity’ with President George W Bush’s deliberate hands-off approach.

Although his historic civil nuclear initiative got all the attention, President Bush’s Kashmir policy has contributed even more significantly to the transformation of Indo-U S relations.

Despite relentless pressures from Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Bush refused to inject the U S into the Indo-Pak conflict. By ending the traditional American meddling in Kashmir, Bush created the conditions for purposeful bilateral negotiations between New Delhi and Islamabad. India would not want Obama to disrupt this positive dynamic in the subcontinent.

India does not disagree with Obama that a Pakistan secure within its own borders is good for the whole region. That indeed is the basis on which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee explored solutions to the Kashmir dispute on a bilateral basis.

India’s problem with the Obama thesis is in the simplistic trade-off it sets up between Kashmir and Afghanistan. More than seven years after 9/11, Washington has begun to understand that the source of the problem in both Kashmir and Afghanistan is the Pak Army and its instrumentalisation of extremism to achieve political objectives.

Ending the Army’s right to define Isalamabad’s national security goals would make it a lot easier to resolve Pakistan’s disputes with both India and Afghanistan. That in turn would demand Indo-U S cooperation in accelerating Pakistan’s democratic transition by establishing firm civilian control over the military.

(C. Raja Mohan is a Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University and a Contributing Editor of The Indian Express.)

Ray said...

Obama still is in a white dominated (WASP) USA. He cannot veer too far from being a ‘house black’ (to be PC). He has made history and he will sure vie to have his second term and hence being too out of step would be disastrous for him. The perks of a US President and the immense vista for money making post Presidentship is too attractive to indicate any individual black orientation or religious sentiments of his father’s religion, the Pakistan visit notwithstanding.

Americans are averse to two issues: nations thumbing their nose at them and their self interest being paramount.

Iraq was not all about Oil as many may think. What has happened to the world is the amalgamation of what was demanded by Dick Cheney’s “Defense Policy Guidelines” (DPG) and “National Energy Policy” (NEP), when he was the Secretary of Defence under President Bush sr. To put it in a nutshell, it was to ensure US’ global supremacy as the sole superpower and the methods to ensure so. Saddam Hussein was a mere cover. Russia had to be squeezed inwards and OPEC’s stranglehold over oil and oil prices loosened to the extent it was easy breathing for the US. Iraq and Iran played into the US’ scheme of things, by wanting to change the instrument of oil purchase to Euros and Iran wanted to go further by breaking the Gospel wherein oil can be traded in the UK or the US!!

Afghanistan, apart from harbouring Osama, was also the link to push Caspian oil which was under a US consortium to Gwadar port in Pakistan since the oil guzzling Johnny come lately were China and India as per the NIE. Therefore, Afghanistan was a target and one should not be surprised as to who was behind the Baluchi insurgency!! An independent Baluchistan, trims Pakistan’s wings, squeezes Iran from both sides (Iran has a sizeable Blauchi population) and with Afghanistan in the bag, it clears the pipeline!! It also eliminates the Chinese influence in Gwadar, which is basically a listening post currently into US activities in the Middle East.

Now that Iraq has stabilised to some extent, Obama can speak of withdrawal to pander to the US national sentiments. But then it must be remembered the largest US base outside the US and maybe Europe is in Iraq! And it fits snugly into Cheney’s DPG! Can Obama abandon this policy that has ensured US’ interests are paramount? The Middle East is a problem for the US and it is important to shore up its only ally, Israel. And, if one notices, Iraq is the centre of the Middle East and hence an important hub to strike fast wherever there are issue to resolve in the US interest. There sure will be a drawdown, but never a total withdrawal.

Afghanistan cannot be abandoned since it is the ‘cockpit’ into South Asia and China. The Xingjian can be ‘tweaked’ so can the Central Asian Republics (CAR) and ensure as to how the Shanghai Five fails. Money is being pumped in and of that there is no doubt. It is unfortunate that they supported a mercurial Shakasvelli who has messed up the ‘Great Game’, but Lebanon and Ukraine still holds!

Obama cannot abandon the gains of the Bush regime. He may sugarcoat the issues, but abandon the gains?

India also plays a pivotal role in the US plan since India is being encouraged to take a greater interest in the CAR.

If that be the geostrategy and realpolitik, can Obama abandon India for his Pakistani friends?

And Pakistan stands condemned as of now!!

The US public, from which he draws his power, are too pleased with Pakistan!