OBAMA’s INDIA VISIT: How the world has changed: We create jobs for US – Deals in hand, Obama concedes two-way flow – the diplomatic salesman at his finest ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SUJAN DUTTA
WITH INPUTS FROM NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
Mumbai, Nov. 6: India today put its might where its mouth once was, handing the United States of America a life-saver of 53,670 jobs in one fell swoop and redeeming a generation that still remembers the long years of “ship-to-mouth” existence.
As President Barack Obama savoured the relief of wrapping up 20 Indian deals that can generate jobs back home, First Lady Michelle Obama danced to a Bollywood song 2km away.
It appeared that the first day of the presidential tour was more about an undeclared coronation of India rather than whether a one-time minnow managed to squeeze out benevolence from a reigning monarch.
The mood was captured by industrialist Anand Mahindra, who told a cheering audience at a panel discussion later: “It’s nice to see a hand being stretched towards us for a change.”
Mahindra would have struck a chord among the Indian generation that was born in the 1950s and grew up during the next two “difficult decades”, feeding on American grain generosity till the Green Revolution filled the country’s granaries.
Half a century later, India’s granaries are overflowing, some (*?!!) to criminal wastage. The Indian economy is doing much better than most western powers and the country is in a position to offer other nations jobs, not just “steal” them as some critics of outsourcing have been claiming.
Obama acknowledged as much today. Meeting 25 Indian executives in the afternoon, he spoke of “ties that hold incredible promise”. But jobs were never far from the lips of the President, who badly needs to convince increasingly sceptical Americans that he can fix the economy.
“Ties that hold incredible promise for people and our future. The promise of new jobs, industries and new growth. Whether or not that promise is fulfilled depends on us, on the decisions we take and partnerships we build in the coming years,” Obama said.
Among the audience were some entrepreneurs who are working on start-ups for electric cars and water purifiers. Obama told the group that he wanted to hear from them about new ideas that could help create jobs in the US and emerging markets like India, said Shaffi Mather, a young Indian businessman who attended the meeting.
Many of the deals were already in the pipeline before today’s formal announcement but the alacrity with which the Americans were holding them aloft as trophies reflected the intense pressure for jobs they face back home.
Among the deals is an order of 33 Boeing aircraft for SpiceJet that could generate about 12,000 jobs. While Obama was speaking in Nariman Point, his mind must have been in Chicago, his homeport where Boeing is headquartered.
India is a delicate place for Obama to talk about jobs, given American concerns about outsourcing.
The President today steered clear of his campaign trail analogy of Bangalore-Boston (how American cities are losing jobs to Indian cities) but did mention “old stereotypes”.
“These old stereotypes, these old concerns ignore today’s reality,” Obama said. “In 2010, trade between our countries is not just a one-way street of American jobs and companies moving to India. It is a dynamic, two-way relationship that is creating jobs, growth, and higher living standards in both our countries.”
If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who flagged off the country on the road to reforms nearly two decades ago, was following developments with quiet vindication today, an unexpected political bonus also came his way.
The BJP launched an attack on Obama for omitting Pakistan in his speech at the Taj hotel while paying tribute to 26/11 victims.
By this evening, an embarrassed BJP was speaking of “calibrating” the response tomorrow, realising that any mention of Pakistan by Obama would have struck at the root of the party’s avowed “bilateral issue” stand. Besides, no head of state or government is expected to criticise another country by name from the soil of a third nation. Some western leaders had indeed named Pakistan earlier but had to pay a domestic price once they returned.
The afternoon’s sombre meeting at the Taj hotel against the backdrop of the Gateway of India was just the plank from which Obama dove into the business agenda that he enunciated at the US India Business Council meet in the evening at The Trident.
For Mumbaikars, hassled by the hyper-security around the President and his First Lady, it was a language that was easily understood: dhandha, the transactional nature of relationships. “Obamarketeer has found dhandha here today,” said a Mumbaikar.
Obama suggested Washington and New Delhi would work together for the US to lift export controls on certain high-technology items. He has also offered to support India as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group — a tall order as it requires the support of 46 member-countries.
The push to the strategic partnership that Indian and US diplomats talk about was not on the table in Mumbai. That’s New Delhi’s job.
As Michelle rocked to Rang de Basanti, India’s money made music in Mumbai today.
Michelle dances into little hearts … What’s the capital of America, kids ask – Good Education, the key to all success ?!!
BY SATISH NANDGAONKAR
Mumbai, Nov. 6: How do you make Michelle Obama hop and dance with joy? Just ask her easy questions like “What’s the capital of America?”
The US First Lady made a group of poor children’s day here this evening, playing hopscotch with them and swaying to a Bollywood number.
If the poll-scarred Barack Obama, away at Hotel Trident to talk business, was worrying how to match predecessor Bill Clinton in winning Indian hearts, his wife did it for him.
The venue was the Mumbai University library on the heritage Fort campus where Michelle, wearing a coffee-coloured top and a multi-coloured skirt, arrived to meet 23 poor children and 18 volunteers from four NGOs.
“I love dancing,” she told the children, perhaps remembering how Clinton had charmed women at a Rajasthan village with an impromptu jig a decade ago.
Someone started playing the title track of Rang De Basanti, composed by A.R. Rahman. Michelle, joined by the children, began shaking a leg to the number sung by Daler Mehndi.
She chatted easily during the half-hour interaction. A girl said meeting Michelle had made her dreams come true. “No. You are my dream,” the American mother of two said. “We are very proud of you.”
She added: “President Obama is trying to make this world better so that kids like you can get better opportunities.”
Soon, they began a game of hopscotch, in which the players hop across a court, advancing a square each time after answering a question correctly.
“We asked her to spell ‘Washington, DC’ and asked her ‘what’s the capital of America?’” said one of the children. The First Lady also spelt “happiness” and correctly named the “Father of India” — she had just visited the Gandhi Museum at Mani Bhavan. Her audience clapped and cheered.
Michelle, though, advised the children that all life’s questions would not be easy, and that education was the key to success.
“She said the children could rise (in life) just as she had with the power of education. She said her journey had not been an easy one, but she could do justice to all her responsibilities as the First Lady only because of her education,” said Vikas Hotwani, a volunteer for one of the NGOs, Making A Difference or MAD.
Michelle gifted the children stationery, an autographed bag carrying a White House picture, and toys, one of which was a stuffed canine resembling the Obama family dog. She autographed the children’s T-shirts and hands.
“Dancing with her was the best part. I have taken her autograph; she was very nice,” said Sagar Jadhav, 12.
“I have learnt from her that education is important in life,” said Johny David, 13, who danced with Michelle and played drums.
Substance fills P-word vacuum – Diplomats laud 26/11 speech – A lesson in Diplo-speak, the art of saying without saying ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ARCHIS MOHAN
New Delhi, Nov. 6: US President Barack Obama didn’t point a finger at Pakistan from the Taj lectern this afternoon but his hosts didn’t seem to mind too much, unprepared to stain the atmospherics with split hair-ends.
The BJP and the Left issued taunts but South Block and the diplomatic community steadfastly refused to join in, maintaining Obama’s message against terror and its wellsprings were unambiguous.
“It was a memorial speech for God’s sake,” said former Indian ambassador to the UN, Arundhati Ghose, on being asked if Obama had fallen short of Indian expectations by not naming Pakistan. “I am not willing to say I am disappointed, it was quite an emotional presentation.”
Obama’s six minutes on the terrace of the Taj — his first public engagement since touching down — was both sombre tribute and stern warning.
He was effusive in praise for those that braved the 26/11 terror attack and firm of the resolve that the US, in partnership with India, was committed to fighting off terror.
“India and US have worked closer than ever, sharing intelligence, preventing more attacks, and demanding that the perpetrators be brought to justice,” he said.
“The United States and India are working together more closely than ever to keep our people safe. And I look forward to deepening our counter-terrorism cooperation even further when I meet with Prime Minister Singh in New Delhi.”
Obama spoke shortly after he and Michelle, turned out in turtle grey to match the mood of the occasion, visited the Tree of Life memorial for 26/11 victims in the Taj lobby, signed a visitors’ book and spent a while reading the names of those killed inscribed on the plaque.
“I know there’s been a great deal of commentary on our decision to begin our visit here in this dynamic city, at this historic hotel,” Obama said, underlining the symbolisms of his itinerary. “And to those who have asked whether this is intended to send a message, my answer is simply, absolutely.”
Describing Mumbai as a city of “incredible energy and optimism”, Obama said: “Ever since those horrific days two years ago, the Taj has been the symbol of the strength and the resilience of the Indian people. So, yes, we visit here to send a very clear message that in our determination to give our people a future of security and prosperity, the United States and India stand united.”
Obama referred to the 26/11 perpetrators as “terrorists” and “murderers” and talked about the “savagery of terrorists” and the resilience of people of Mumbai.
Quoting from Jawaharlal Nehru, he said: “We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest…We’ll never forget the awful images of 26/11, including the flames from this hotel that lit up the night sky. We’ll never forget how the world, including the American people watched and grieved with all of India.”
Referring to the families of the victims, he said: “A few moments ago, Michelle and I had the opportunity to visit the memorial here and to honour the memory of those who were lost. And we also had the privilege of meeting with some of their families, as well as some of the courageous survivors. I thank them all for joining us here today, along with so many others who endured the anguish of those four days in November.”
The carping in political circles over the absence of any mention to Pakistan notwithstanding, the dominant view in the government was that the US President’s speech — that he had chosen to begin his India tour in Mumbai with a night at the Taj, forsaking Pakistan altogether from this trip — was enough for the Pakistani establishment to sit up and take note.
“Why do we want him to state the obvious. His speech made it quite clear who he was referring to,” said former Intelligence Bureau director A.S. Dulat.
Mani Shankar Aiyar, a former diplomat and an MP agreed. “Let’s stop being petty if we have ambitions of conducting a relationship of equals between US and India,” he said. “I am probably happy he did not utter the P-word.”
Across the border, Pakistani politicians and experts seemed disappointed that Obama omitted the ‘K’ word — the Kashmir issue having been part of his campaign speeches — probably with an eye on not ruffling Indian feathers and seeking, instead, her cooperation in lifting the US economy out of its current rut.
What probably also rankled some across the border was Obama’s lavish praise for India’s pluralist society. “The perpetrators wanted to pit believers of different faiths against one another. But they failed. Because here in Mumbai, the diversity that is India’s strength was on full display: Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jews and Muslims protecting each other, saving each other, living the common truth of all the world’s great religions, that we are all children of God.”
MESSAGE & MEDIUM
● Grandstanding on walking hand-in-hand with India against terrorism
● Strong repudiation of terror, even stronger resolve to fight it
● Commitment to respecting pluralist values
● High praise for Mumbaikars’ courage and restraint
● Salutation to those who fought the Taj siege from within
● No mention of Pakistan in memorial speech
Hero’s words at Mani Bhavan – Obama knows, as did Martin Luther King, the sins of politics without principles and commerce without morality always backfires ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SATISH NANDGAONKAR
Mumbai, Nov. 6: A Gandhian quietly told President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle what the world has been trying to tell America since 9/11: politics without principles and commerce without morality is a social sin.
“Michelle Obama nodded and smiled when I told her about the seven things that Gandhiji regarded as seven deadly social sins,” J.V. Pathak, a trustee of Mani Bhavan, told The Telegraph after the Obamas spent nearly 40 minutes at the Gandhi museum here this afternoon.
Pathak was only quoting from an article Gandhi wrote in October 1925 in the Young India magazine he edited.
“Wealth without work, education without character, science without humanity, pleasure without conscience, and worship without sacrifice are the others sins that the Mahatma underlined. I was very happy to meet President Obama and his wife. They are remarkably humble,” Pathak said.
At Mani Bhavan, the couple were welcomed by museum president Vasant Pradhan and Gandhi’s granddaughter Ushaben Gokani. They offered floral tributes to a statue of the Mahatma on the ground floor before walking up to the second floor to see a room that he had lived in during the freedom struggle.
Among the Mani Bhavan trustees present today was Usha Trivedi, who had welcomed Martin Luther King when he visited Mani Bhavan nearly 50 years ago. “I told him that I had the rare privilege of welcoming Martin Luther King in 1959, and now Obama,” Trivedi said.
The Gandhians presented the Obamas with two books, including Mahatma Gandhi — a Golden Treasure of Wisdom, a collection of his teachings.
“I am filled with hope and inspiration and I have the privilege to view this testament to Gandhi. He’s a hero not just to India but to the world,” Obama wrote in the visitor’s book.
ECONOMY: Industry backs Obama stand – focusing on the bigger issues to let the little ones settle themselves ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Mumbai, Nov. 6: India Inc was happy to play along with President Barack Obama sidestepping the outsourcing issue, a potential hot potato between the two democracies, and instead focus on the big picture: improve trade relations between US and India.
“It’s not all about outsourcing. What the President was saying is that there is a new model of doing business between India and the US and this doesn’t revolve around bringing cutting-edge technology to India. This new model looks at how US products and services fit the bill in the Indian economy that is growing at a rapid rate,” said Ajay Piramal of Piramal Enterprises.
Piramal was among one of the select few Indian businessmen and young entrepreneurs who spent an hour with President Obama. “For instance, I spoke to him about how we are taking drinking water to rural India at just 25 paise a litre and we’re doing that with American technology,” he added.
“Similarly, Rashmi Barbhaiya (CEO of Advinus Therapeutics) and I spoke about partnerships in drug discovery …while Anand Mahindra spoke with the President on the Reva electric car and its positive impact in an economy like India,” said Piramal.
Obama was obviously gung-ho over these collaborations: he mentioned all three projects in his address to the CEOs of Indian and US corporations later in the evening.
A majority of the CEOs from corporate India who assembled at the Trident on Saturday afternoon were equally enthused by the President’s address to the country’s business community. Rajan Bharti Mittal, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, described the President’s address as “a very pragmatic speech”.
Speaking to The Telegraph after Obama’s speech, N. Chandrasekaran, CEO and managing director at TCS, India’s largest exporter of software services, said, “ President Obama’s address was positive as it focused on the significant opportunities that existed in both the countries and the fact that both countries can contribute to each other’s growth.”
M&M’s Arun Nanda echoed a similar sentiment. “The US President adopted a balanced approach in his speech,” he said.
“It was a very positive speech. He was very focused on the opportunities for trade that exist between the two countries. While he was very upfront about the outsourcing issue, he wanted to move on to the scope in other sectors,” said Swati Piramal, a director of Piramal Heathcare.
Foreign investment rules face the flak – so US wants in on phenomenal Indian growth factor too ?!!
Mumbai, Nov. 6 (PTI): The US today sought a level-playing field and an atmosphere of genuine competition for its companies doing business in India, saying the current foreign investment rules are “opaque” and customs tariffs complex.
“These (FDI) rules will halt rather than stimulate foreign investment. All that the US seeks is a level-playing field for its companies and a genuine competition,” US commerce secretary Gary Locke said while addressing a meeting of the Indo-US Business Summit.The summit was organised ahead of US President Barack Obama’s address to the CEOs of the two nations.
Locke said it was critical that India should not go in for policies that could slow down this level-playing field.
On trade barriers, he said, India’s import tariffs were complex and various non-tariff barriers had grown. Moreover, he added, India’s FDI rules were “opaque”. India receives about 8 per cent of total foreign investment from the US. FDI in 2009-10 was $25.8 billion, while Indo-US trade in 2009-10 stood at $36.5 billion.
The US today sought to assuage the IT industry here, saying India had not been singled out on the issue of the rise in visa fee, a move that raised the hackles of technology firms. “Indian IT firms had not been singled out and countries like South Korea and Taiwan would also pay more,” Locke told a private news channel.