Obama and India

NEW DELHI – India has stood out around the world for being one of the few countries indifferent to America’s presidential election. Indeed, an astounding 87% of Indians polled said that they did not think the election mattered to them.

President-elect Barack Obama will have to deal with disasters on many fronts as his administration takes over the reins of government. India, presumably, will not be one of them. If there is one bilateral relationship that the Bush administration is seen to have handled successfully, it is that with India.

This impression is no accident. A powerful lobbying effort included millions of dollars spent to support passage of one of the crowning achievements of Bush’s foreign policy: the United States-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. Senator Obama voted for the deal, as did Senator Joe Biden, one of its champions as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In the heady first months after it came to power, the Bush administration laid out a bold new vision that gave India – a rising Asian democracy on China’s border, proximate to the shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean and to the epicenter of Islamist terrorism – a starring role in US foreign policy. The argument to India was essentially this: You need us to realize your ambition to become a major world power, and we share a concern over China’s rise and Islamist terrorism, so let’s work together.