Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obama and The Indian Media - Snippets

The inevitable has happened. The conscience of America has asserted itself. Obama is, among other things, the American voters’ emphatic apology to the world for the wounds inflicted on it under the banner of ‘making the world safe for democracy’.

We hope things will be different from 2009 January.

The Indian media has been covering the election very enthusiastically. Its reaction to Obama’s election is quite fascinating. Here are random samples of it.

Let’s begin with the Ernakulam MP Sebastian Paul who was the expert commentator for one of the Malayalam channels. He felt that through Obama’s middle name, Saddam Hussein had his revenge on Bush and the Republican administration! To hear a Marxist talk of Saddam Hussein’s SOUL finding peace now, was indeed funny! He, as also Karat and the other commentators of Kairali Channel, took a few potshots at PM Manmohan Singh. They wondered what the PM would do now that the party of India’s “best friend’ Bush was voted out of power. It was, they felt, the people’s verdict on Bush’s international and domestic policies. The Ernakulam MP was very positive about Obama, but chose to keep his fingers crossed. He hoped it would not be like the Janata government’s fiasco after it was voted into power with great expectations after the Emergency.

The anchor person put a strange question to Sebastian Paul.
“Suppose the whole world were to participate in this election. Do you think Obama would get such a massive victory?”
Mr. Paul came up with the typical leftist answer. “Yes”, he said. “Obama stands for the oppressed people of the world. He represents the concept of liberation”.

There was this journalist (I didn’t get his initials right-so shall keep his name out) who thought that Obama cannot make much of a difference. He felt that the only thing that can pull USA quickly out of the recession is a boom in the arms industry. So the threat perceptions around the world would have to be kept very high. "Obama may not be able to resist the pressure from the arms lobby which decides the foreign policy of the USA”. Very cynical, I thought.

He felt that Obama’s victory was the verdict of his countrymen on Bush’s failure – in Iraq, in the Arab- Israeli peace negotiations, in Iran and in east Europe where he could do nothing against Russia’s high-handedness.

Mr. T C Srinivasan felt that Obama’s victory should be partly ascribed to Bush’s success in internal security. There were no attacks after 9/11. So there was no need felt for a tough President.

All the persons interviewed agreed that the recession was responsible for the undecided voters casting their votes in favour of Obama. These were negative votes-against Bush’s economic policies. And McCain’s statement that he was a babe in economics was badly timed.

Sara Palin's conservatism, many thought, frightened away the moderates among the Republicans.

All eulogized over Martin Luther King’s dream coming true. All the channels played and replayed the "I have a Dream" speech. However, the references in Malayalam to idea of "Black", was not well handled by the media, particularly when they appeared in the headlines. The racial angle could have been handled a little more delicately, I thought.

Regarding Indo-Us relationship, no one had anything substantial to say. Sebastian Paul felt that India never figured in Obama’s election rhetoric till June 2008, notwithstanding a Gandhi picture on the wall of his office. Most felt that whenever India did figure in his speeches or interviews, he said nothing to get really excited about. On the other hand, his references to India caused a few eyebrows to go up. Media never misses a chance to remind us about Obama’s campaign memo referring to Hillary Clinton as “that democrat from Punjab”. “New Delhi is starkly absent in his vision of a larger Asian framework. There is no Obama talk of India in the UN Security Council” (V. Sudarshan)

Obama’s last minute remarks on Kashmir has left a lot of people confused. There was talk about a possible shift in the US attitude to India, and a couple of commentators expressed hope that the traditional US policy regarding Kashmir will be adhered to. Many remembered that Obama was a critic of the Nuclear Deal. There are references to Obama “moving the poison pill amendment to address his proliferation concern”. V. Sudarshan of Indian Express quoted from Obama’s letter to the PM Manmohan Singh about his desire for ‘greater collaboration with India on nonproliferation issue” as “one of my highest priorities as president”. He feels Obama is not as “predisposed to Delhi as his predecessor who personally intervened many time in the tortuous passage of the 123 to keep the deal alive”. Obama’s conservatism on this issue “will tell on the implementation 123”. Needless to say, Marxists, who have already begun sneering at Manmohan Singh, are eagerly waiting to see the Deal run into trouble.

Sudarshan is anxious about Obama’s position on Kashmir. “More worryingly, Obama sees Kashmir being in the way of Pakistan effectively dealing with America’s central front in its war against terrorism in Afghanistan”. Referring to Obama’s article in Foreign Affairs(July/August 2007), he writes, ”Parsed properly, Obama seems to think that Kashmir needs to be resolved as an incentive for Pakistan to do a better job fighting al-Qaeda…..How quickly does Obama think he can persuade our Pakistani friends to cut their link with Kashmiri secessionist? In the first two years of his presidency? The notion itself is so excessively simplistic and so like a campaign speech but has that touch of dangerous naivety that bears watching how this develops.”

I would have shrugged this off on account of my skepticism about the New Indian Express, had it not been for Obama’s s statement on Kashmir hours before the election.

But we in India want to be optimistic like our Finance Minister Chidambaram who, when asked by journalists about outsourcing soon after Obama’s election, said that a comment here and a comment there before the elections should not be taken seriously. “Once he studies the situation, he’ll realize that in this interconnected world, such drastic steps cannot be taken”.


  1. Nice round up of the election hysteria in India ..
    You ever said what you think though :) (about Obama winning)

  2. You can parse the words yourself, if you like, in Obama's essay which Sudarshan refers to:
    "I will join with our allies in insisting -- not simply requesting -- that Pakistan crack down on the Taliban, pursue Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, and end its relationship with all terrorist groups. At the same time, I will encourage dialogue between Pakistan and India to work toward resolving their dispute over Kashmir and between Afghanistan and Pakistan to resolve their historic differences and develop the Pashtun border region. If Pakistan can look toward the east with greater confidence, it will be less likely to believe that its interests are best advanced through cooperation with the Taliban."

    To me, this matches my opinion on your earlier post that he is viewing the region as a whole, with the breeding grounds of terrorism concentrated (a)the Afghan-Pakistan border (b)The India-Pakistan border and LOC region. Both areas have to be dealt with to get rid of the problem.

  3. thanks sujatha.
    the media in india is dissecting his words and drawing conclusions and conclusions ----. poor we are at the receiving end.
    @ deepak
    my take? will post a blog on it .

  4. >>The anchor person put a strange question to Sebastian Paul.
    “Suppose the whole world were to participate in this election. Do you think Obama would get such a massive victory?”
    Mr. Paul came up with the typical leftist answer. “Yes”, he said. “Obama stands for the oppressed people of the world. He represents the concept of liberation”.<<

    Was that a strange question? I am still a student of journalism and a poor one at that, but I thought that was a good question. (Closing eyes 'n saying - Please no teacher of mine read this)


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