Obama In India


I tried tuning in to talk radio after the election and had to turn it right off again so much hue and cry was being raised over the President's trip to India: all of it that I heard low and unfair. For starters, his trip didn't cost $200 million/day, nor did he take an unconscionable number of minions as one Indian tabloid claimed, and we might have fact-checked that before asserting it.
Then, as India is a rising economy, I want to see the U.S. President there --or do we prefer to let it sink into China's orbit? We are competing with China now for influence in India & Africa.
Thirdly, I agree with Bret Stephens that Obama delivered himself of his best speech as President while in India. Not one I can unabashedly get behind --he's Obama, the progressive sophomore and I'm a Catholic constitutional conservative-- but good, for him. So, looking past all the sophomoric tribute to Ghandi, and the need to refer to him as "Gandhiji" (I saw that Ben Kingsley movie, too), I simply note as Stephens does that before the Indian Parliament Obama did three things I like and very much want him to do.
He repeated his commitment to Afghanistan and stood by his reneging on the "date certain" for departure:
America’s fight against al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates is why we persevere in Afghanistan, where major development assistance from India has improved the lives of the Afghan people.  We’re making progress in our mission to break the Taliban’s momentum and to train Afghan forces so they can take the lead for their security.  And while I have made it clear that American forces will begin the transition to Afghan responsibility next summer, I’ve also made it clear that America’s commitment to the Afghan people will endure.  The United States will not abandon the people of Afghanistan -— or the region -— to violent extremists who threaten us all.
Notice, too, that he names the enemy: al Qaeda --not mere "extremists." And he spoke of defeating it:
Our strategy to disrupt and dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates has to succeed on both sides of the border.  And that’s why we have worked with the Pakistani government to address the threat of terrorist networks in the border region. The Pakistani government increasingly recognizes that these networks are not just a threat outside of Pakistan —- they are a threat to the Pakistani people, as well.  They’ve suffered greatly at the hands of violent extremists over the last several years.
      And we’ll continue to insist to Pakistan's leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks must be brought to justice.  (Applause.)  We must also recognize that all of us have an interest in both an Afghanistan and a Pakistan that is stable and prosperous and democratic —- and India has an interest in that, as well.
He defended freedom and human rights and gave India a speech not unlike the one Tony Blair gave us when he spoke to Congress as PM:
democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for the common man —- and woman.
      Likewise, when Indians vote, the whole world watches.  Thousands of political parties; hundreds of thousands of polling centers; millions of candidates and poll workers -- and 700 million voters.  There’s nothing like it on the planet.  There is so much that countries transitioning to democracy could learn from India’s experience, so much expertise that India can share with the world.  And that, too, is what is possible when the world’s largest democracy embraces its role as a global leader.
      As the world’s two largest democracies, we must never forget that the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others. (Applause.)  Indians know this, for it is the story of your nation.  Before he ever began his struggle for Indian independence, Gandhi stood up for the rights of Indians in South Africa.  Just as others, including the United States, supported Indian independence, India championed the self-determination of peoples from Africa to Asia as they, too, broke free from colonialism.  (Applause.)  And along with the United States, you’ve been a leader in supporting democratic development and civil society groups around the world.  And this, too, is part of India’s greatness.
      Now, we all understand every country will follow its own path.  No one nation has a monopoly on wisdom, and no nation should ever try to impose its values on another.  But when peaceful democratic movements are suppressed —- as they have been in Burma, for example -- then the democracies of the world cannot remain silent.  For it is unacceptable to gun down peaceful protestors and incarcerate political prisoners decade after decade.  It is unacceptable to hold the aspirations of an entire people hostage to the greed and paranoia of bankrupt regimes.  It is unacceptable to steal elections, as the regime in Burma has done again for all the world to see.
      Faced with such gross violations of human rights, it is the responsibility of the international community —- especially leaders like the United States and India —- to condemn it.  And if I can be frank, in international fora, India has often shied away from some of these issues.  But speaking up for those who cannot do so for themselves is not interfering in the affairs of other countries.  It’s not violating the rights of sovereign nations.  It is staying true to our democratic principles.  It is giving meaning to the human rights that we say are universal.  And it sustains the progress that in Asia and around the world has helped turn dictatorships into democracies and ultimately increased our security in the world.
      So promoting shared prosperity, preserving peace and security, strengthening democratic governance and human rights -- these are the responsibilities of leadership.  And as global partners, this is the leadership that the United States and India can offer in the 21st century.
And he defended free markets.
despite the skeptics who said this country was simply too poor, or too vast, or too diverse to succeed, you surmounted overwhelming odds and became a model to the world.
      Instead of slipping into starvation, you launched a Green Revolution that fed millions.  Instead of becoming dependent on commodities and exports, you invested in science and technology and in your greatest resource —- the Indian people.  And the world sees the results, from the supercomputers you build to the Indian flag that you put on the moon.
      Instead of resisting the global economy, you became one of its engines —- reforming the licensing raj and unleashing an economic marvel that has lifted tens of millions of people from poverty and created one of the world’s largest middle classes.
(in spite of himself he says something remarkably pro-life and anti-population control there doesn't he?) And:
together, we can resist the protectionism that stifles growth and innovation.  The United States remains —- and will continue to remain —- one of the most open economies in the world.  And by opening markets and reducing barriers to foreign investment, India can realize its full economic potential as well.
 I don't know if he means any of it --it's so contrary to anything we've heard from him-- but it is on the whole a good speech. Substantive and positive.
Plus, I like Michelle's dancing with the kids: