Obama lands in the waiting arms of seductive India
Asif Haroon Raja
Barack Obama traveling in a helicopter Marine One has finally landed at Mumbai where he will spend two busy days and then proceed to Delhi for a full-day stay. Around 80 rooms have been booked in Taj Hotel and Hyatt. Extraordinary security arrangements have been taken inside and outside India. 34 warships including an aircraft carrier are patrolling the sea lanes off Mumbai coast. Security ring of American Secret Service, National Security Guards and Indian security apparatus are guarding the visitor. The visit has been timed with colorful Diwali to add to the festivity of the occasion and to make it easier for the hosts to seduce the chief guest. His entourage includes 250 investors, US universities principals seeking investment opportunities in higher education, engineering executives wanting to establish locomotive factories for making new trains, energy chief executives looking for new nuclear energy deals, defence executives eying for more defence deals.
It is more of a business oriented visit to promote US exports and less of politics. The US sees India with 1.2 billion people, 8% growth rate with $1.2 trillion GDP and nearly $50 billion Indo-US bilateral trade as a potentially important market for its exports. Indian companies are the second largest fastest growing investors in America, supporting nearly 57000 jobs. In line with policy of his two predecessors, Obama also set the tone by issuing pro-India statements. He stated that India and USA shared common interests as well as common values and were world’s largest democracies; relations with India were among his highest priorities; India is a rising and responsible global power, indispensable to a future American strategy. He described India as ‘natural strategic partner’.
India is keen to buy American military hardware and technology while the US is equally eager to sell its products and technology. Areas of interests are defence items, civil aviation, telecommunication, energy and higher education. Visitors are eying at $10.5 billion defence contract for 126 fighter bombers for Indian air force, ten G17globemaster III heavy transport aircraft with price tag of $5.8 billion.
While Indian media has hyped the visit to quite an extent, the kind of excitement and enthusiasm seen among Indian business community during visits of Bill Clinton and George Bush is not seen now. India has already plucked the cherry of the cake by clinching civil nuclear deal which has allowed it unlimited access to nuclear technology from USA and Nuclear Supplier Group. It has also inked several weighty armament agreements worth billions of dollars to upgrade its defence forces. There is nothing on the cards as lucrative as nuclear deal. Obama too must not be in an effervescent mood because of freshly suffered setback in midterm polls in which Democrats lost their dominating position in House of Representatives to Republicans and Tea Party and also lost six Senate seats.
Notwithstanding elation of Indian leaders that Obama has chosen India and excluded its archrival Pakistan, they are somehow missing the pleasure they derived during visits of earlier two presidents of USA. Both Clinton and Bush had lifted India to the zenith and treated Pakistan shabbily. This time element of comparison will be missing. What the Indian leaders are now looking forward to is lavish praises that India is an indispensable ally and a declaration that India is most eligible candidate for a permanent seat in UNSC. They want Obama to speak out that Pakistan is a bad boy spreading terrorism and India the sole blue-eyed boy of USA in the region. Admonishment of Pakistan by any US or western official make them ecstatic. Their joys knew no bounds when British PM David Cameron on a business trip to India had passed highly undiplomatic remarks against Pakistan. Obama will be careful not to act as foolishly as Cameron.
India’s hunger for western origin latest state-of-art weaponry and advanced technology is insatiable. It wants removal of all restrictions imposed on high-tech exports and dual use of sophisticated technology in defence deals. It desires four additional P-81 aircraft worth $101 billion and 100 GE engines to upgrade locally made light combat aircraft. However, Indians want all the goodies to fall into the lap of India and to keep the arsenal of Pakistan empty. They are already glum over recently announced $2 billion military aid to Pakistan. They have conveyed to Obama not to spoil their moods by saying something about human rights abuses in Kashmir but would be too pleased if he says that India is the victim of terrorism and Pakistan an abettor of terrorism.
As regards Afghanistan, they would like him to reiterate that India and not Pakistan is the key country. They are certain to express their deep concern over growing reliance of Washington on Pakistan in winding up the endgame in Afghanistan. They will present the visitor cooked up stories and fake proofs to convince him that Pakistan is aligned with Al-Qaeda and Taliban, is playing a double game and harming Indo-US interests. Taking advantage of his good mood, they would try to impress upon him that commencement of withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan in July 2011 would wash away whatever gains made and strengthen extremist Muslims in the region. They will advise him to review Afghan policy in December and cancel the withdrawal date. They would also like Obama to contradict the impression he created during his visit to Beijing in 2009 by encouraging China to play a greater role in South Asia. The US officials of late have already been trying to placate India on this matter by throwing feelers that India should play a bigger role in East Asia.
Taj Hotel has been selected for Obama’s stay with a sinister purpose where a business summit is in progress. It is meant to physically show the place of incident which had been taken over by terrorists on the night of 26 November 2008. For 72 hours the life in economic hub centre had been paralyzed by nine terrorists. It was alleged that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) at the behest of ISI had performed the gory act. USA, UK and other western countries blindly bought the story and the whole world sympathized with India. Pakistan was put under extensive pressure to hand over suspects nominated by India. For two years India unbendingly held to its stance and no amount of reasoning could make it change its rigid standpoint. It shamelessly kept shouting from the rooftop that Pakistan was not cooperating whereas ground position was the other way round.
Drama was given a new turn by adding David Coleman Headley in the list of suspects and naming him as ISI man who had a central role in Mumbai attacks. India has been trying hard to establish a link between Headley, Lashkar-e-Taiba and ISI so that it could nail Pakistan on charge of abetting terrorism.
The whole story has been punctured by a leading Indian think tank. It has revealed that Headley is a CIA-FBI agent since long. It says that CIA-FBI-Mossad role in fomenting and planning Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks are proven beyond doubt. Indian think tank has somehow missed out involvement of RAW for obvious reasons. Headley’s connection with CIA and FBI has also been confirmed by Sebastian Rotella of Pro-Public website and former RAW operative B Raman. Headley is a known drug dealer involved in criminal activities. He was arrested by FBI to pre-empt his arrest by Indian and British intelligence agencies that had got the lead on him. So what I had penned down in my write ups in December 2008-January 2009 after the Mumbai carnage that the whole episode was a cooked up drama by RAW and foreign agencies has at last come true.
The writer is a defence and security analyst.