Public Comment

U.S. presidential Elections and Indo-American Friendship

By K. P. Bhattacharjee
Thursday October 30, 2008 - 12:30:00 PM

The Indo-American relationship has never been so high and as good as it has been during last three years.  

During this period the US government under the leadership of  

President George W. Bush has strengthened the relationship between the  

two countries by extending full civil nuclear co-operation with India and other bilateral ties including creating environment for more business, commercial, educational and social activities between the two countries. 

It has been reported that during the last three years the enrolment of Indian students in the US universities has been ranked at the top among the foreign 


Moreover, majority of Indian professionals and executives working in the US companies and institutions have an income level above the average level of income in the USA. 

Hence the Indian community in the USA has contributed as much as it has received from the United States, if not more. 

Consequently India and the Indian American communities earnestly hope that the new President will improve upon the existing good relationship between the US and India which would benefit both the countries economically and socially. 

The coming presidential election in the USA on November 4 will be a very keen contest between the Democrats and Republican candidates. The  

Democratic Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Jo Biden represent change in American policies at national and international level. The debates leading up to the election has witnessed clash of personalities, ideas and vision of the two candidates and the debates have been very close. Perhaps the candidate who can convince the American voters what he can deliver will clinch the election. As John Kennedy had aid in his acceptance speech…. 

“ You must do for the country what is required of you and not ask what the country has done for you.” 

The clash is not restricted to political ideology, but electing the first African-American President; and between a liberal and a conservative President; between youth and aged; between progressive policies or old dreams of the American middle class families represented by John McCain and Sarah Palin in particular. 

Sarah Palin has added a new dimension to this election. She represent the vast majority of middle class families across the States and their dreams, (except in New York and California), where the mother takes care of the family while the father earns. And if the family lives in Alaska, the father may be digging the terrain to find gold dust or drilling for oil, while the mother takes care of family’s daily needs and even flying the children to schools or sending them to Oregon State or Berkeley for graduate school.  

If Obama is elected then he will become the first African- American President in the USA and this would be the most significant change that would take place in the history of the United States. 

It is a long journey from the American Civil Rights movement initiated on the model on non-violence developed by India’s immortal leader Mohandas Gandhi and followed by Martin Luther King. 

Many of my American friends have commented that contribution of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence concept to the United States is of much more value than the sum of all aid USA has given to India since 1950. 

The above statement is supported by a recent story published (October 24) in the leading English daily in Calcutta by Jonathan Power that. “The non-violent tactics of Mahatma Gandhi are pushing at an open door. Even the Pentagon has begun to look at their value in situation of conflict and political impasse.” (The story then refers to the non-violent struggle by the opposition in Zimbabwe to push aside the dictatorial regime of Robert Mugabe). 

Obama is young, smart and has experience as a community organizer and has organized activities with the local India-American groups in Illinois. The India-American strongly feel that Obama will establish a stronger tie with India. 

He identifies himself with the Black American but there are groups within the main stream Black Americans who do not consider him to be a part of their community, since his ancestors are not slaves. He has also faced criticism from a few black community and church leaders. 

He is particularly concerned about healthcare coverage for the middle class families and has promised to make healthcare accessible to all Americans. Of course he may face difficulties to get the bill on healthcare approved at the congress. 

He is also concerned about creating more jobs for the Americans. But with the present financial crisis it may be difficult for him to find pragmatic policies. 

John McCain too proposes to extend healthcare coverage from American people but he wants do it with the cooperation of private companies. He too proposes to provide more employment opportunities, but in general he would be following the policies pursued by President Bush including his policies on India, Pakistan and Afghanisthan. Obama wants the thrust of front line activities concentrated in Afghanistan.  

The statements of the two presidential candidates of the USA are not very assuring for development of business and job opportunities in the USA for the Indians and outsourcing of jobs to India. Over the years the Democrats and Republicans have supported the Indian communities and encouraged US companies to off load business (outsource) to India. The Indian-Americans are likely to vote for the candidate whose policies convince them of a better future.  

The Democratic candidate Barak Obama has made repeated public statements that he wants American companies to create more jobs in the USA and each dollar earned by these companies should be re-invested in the USA and outsourcing to be limited. Such statements of Barak Obama have made India and the Indian communities in the USA worried. It is a fact that Obama is inexperienced in foreign policy, but his Vice President Jo Biden would give him plenty of support in foreign policy matters.  

Recently (on Oct. 23) in an interview given by Obama to the Asian News Service (IANS) on foreign policy matters and on relationship with India and Pakistan and has stated “Joe Biden and I will make building a stronger relationship, including a close strategic partnership with India a top priority.” But he has not elaborated what these strategic partnerships are. 

On his agenda for H1-B visa and outsourcing of work, he said “I support comprehensive immigration reform that includes improving our visa program, including H1-B program to attract world’s most talented people to America.” However, he has avoided making statement whether he will increase the number of H-1 visas which will enable more foreign immigrants to find job s in the USA; this is vitally important for foreign immigrants. 

On the issue of job outsourcing Obama has stated…”Revolution in communication technology have sent jobs wherever there is an internet connection and have forced workers in Chicago and Boston to compete for jobs with those in Bangalore and Beijing. We live in a competitive world. 

The American workers need to be supported and given tools needed to compete in the global economy. So I would pursue common sense measures such as offering tax incentives to companies that create jobs in the United States…” 

Republican candidate John McCain will perhaps follow the policies of George Bush. But his voting records for the US’s own nuclear power generation is not very assuring since he still believes in drilling more wells in different states of the USA. It is not clear how far he will be able to strengthen economic ties between India and the USA. 

Obama has publicly stated that he supports India’s civilian nuclear program and has voted for the same in the senate. Hopefully if he is elected, Indian can expect the recently signed nuclear program to proceed in the right 

direction. Because the Indian government is under attack by the opposition in the parliament for agreeing to surrender the country’s sovereign rights on nuclear arsenal program.  

The present economic crisis in the USA (with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, AIG and others) has added fuel to the fire, and the world community is doubtful whether the US economy can recover from the mild recession within next six months by which time the new President must actively pursue his policies. The financial crisis in the USA has affected the world’s financial markets including that of India. And the meltdown affect is creating panic around the world. 

The future of Indo-American relationship will depend much more on resolving the present economic crisis and gaining the confidence of the world community by the new President. A positive outcome with the revived economic conditions will enable the two countries to deal with other world issues, such as world terrorism and globalization and human rights.  


K. P. Bhattacharjee, a graduate of UC Berkeley, is an author, architect and planner who lives in Calcutta, India, where he is the executive director of the Centre for Human Settlements Int’l.