-By Warner Todd Huston
President Barack Obama’s now concluding trip to India seems to have turned out to be a failed or at the very least unhelpful effort. His false starts, unhelpful comments and bad policy moves mark this visit as a bit of a mess.
Obama made multiple gaffes not only for India but for his own party back home not to mention his nation. As his political party was delivered a severe blow and his agenda was cut off at the knees on election day he was seen dancing happily all across the continent with a lavish visit paid for at the taxpayer’s expense even as those same taxpayers were enraged at wild government spending sprees. As the Indians worried over Obama’s foreign policy he refused to call the those that attacked them in Mumbai terrorists and finally on his exit from the country he delivered yet another one of his digs at his own country saying that America is a nation in decline.
Things began going wrong for The One even as he first arrived in one of the most vibrant nations on earth. For one thing he arrived a lesser president than when he originally set up the trip. His party was delivered a stunning and historic blow as the GOP picked up over 60 seats in the federal seat of power and hundreds more in the state legislatures in the Nov. 2 election, a feat that hasn’t been repeated since WWII. So Obama arrived with his mandate splintered and his power diminished. He is a president with less power to help his Indian hosts do anything. Obama started by losing style points. Before he even arrived India’s political class was stunned to find out that this man that supposedly has a well known reputation for being an eloquent speaker was going to use teleprompters in his speeches in their country. This was quixotic and hard for the Indians to understand as their tradition of oratory is based on memorized speeches delivered with panache and the sort of apparent extemporaneous qualities that a canned speech from a teleprompter lacks. Right off the top this fact made Obama seem a smaller man to the Indians.
His party’s losses back home and the suspicion over his capabilities at oratory in India should have been a cue for a serious and subdued visit to India. But Obama and his high-flying wife seemed to have no clue that they should have adopted a more careful demeanor on the visit. They were seen dancing across the continent as if they didn’t have a care in the world and Mrs. Obama went on another one of her epic spending shopping sprees to boot. The frivolity, though, was the least of the problems with this visit.
Another, more damaging gaffe occurred as the president visited the city of Mumbai. His address there was a failure of resolve and an insult to the victims and families that suffered at the hands of Pakistani terrorists in the 2008 attack that saw some 175 people murdered. Not only did Obama refuse to identify the attackers as Pakistani nationals — and all of them were such — but he called them “killers” instead of terrorists. This caused some consternation in India.
It caused such concern that even a young Indian teenager asked the president why he refuses to identify Pakistan as a terrorist sponsoring nation? Alarmingly, instead of giving a serious answer to her question, Obama delivered platitudes saying, “India and Pakistan can prosper and live side by side, this will not happen tomorrow but needs to be the ultimate goal. The US can be a partner but cannot impose this process. India and Pakistan have their own understanding.”
This weak answer shows a lack of spine for fighting terrorism and a refusal to even identify the enemy to civilization.
Finally he ended this gaffe filled trip by once again dealing his own nation a rhetorical slap in the face. Obama told one of his last Indian audiences that the U.S. was a nation in decline and could no longer act as the powerful force it has been for so long.
Speaking at a town hall meeting in Mumbai, he said, “I do think that one of the challenges that we are going face in the US, at a time when we are still recovering from the financial crisis is, how do we respond to some of the challenges of globalisation? The fact of the matter is that for most of my lifetime and I’ll turn 50 next year – the US was such an enormously dominant economic power, we were such a large market, our industry, our technology, our manufacturing was so significant that we always met the rest of the world economically on our terms. And now because of the incredible rise of India and China and Brazil and other countries, the US remains the largest economy and the largest market, but there is real competition.”
As bad as it all was, at least this trip was a step up from the low lights of how Obama treated India thus far in his presidency. When Obama first took office, for instance, he made a major gaffe in immediately phoning the leader of Pakistan to introduce himself as the new American president while he didn’t call the Indian Prime Minister at all. Obama followed that up by slighting India again and again. His India policy until now has been at to at best ignore one of our hardest earned trading partners and at worst repeatedly slight them.
Whether Obama realizes it or not, though, India is an important ally in a part of the world dominated by China and an ally that the U.S. badly needs to counter that growing Chinese hegemony. Sadly, now that Obama may have finally realized that India is a valued partner with the U.S., his visit hardly helped cement that relationship. Only time will tell if this trip helped, hurt, or was immaterial to relations between America and India. The evidence so far is that it didn’t much help.
(Originally posted at BigGovernment.com)