The world is a safer place after four years of Barack Obama in the White House. The war on terror has become vestigial. The United States is no longer interested in going forth overseas to slay demons, to paraphrase one of its founding fathers. This is partly because of the US president's firm belief that his country must speak softly, carry a big stick but use the latter sparingly.
But this does not mean Washington can retreat into a cocoon. The US remains the indispensable nation. The threat of terrorism may have dwindled - from India's perspective it remains very much alive though - but it has been replaced with a threat that arguably has even greater potential to inflict human tragedy. That is the threat of economic depression. The US is economically wounded, but it remains the world's most powerful economy. The European Union may be larger but it lacks leadership. China may have a ferociously concentrated leadership, but it has shown bad high-table manners in recent times. And the economic condition of the US is almost rosy these days compared to the state of the other founts of global wealth. But the world needs economic leadership. Recessions are better fought collectively. The G20 began with great fanfare and has since lost its way. The Doha round is as barren as the Qatari city it is named after. The US is on the verge of an energy boom that can both re-energise the US and heal many of the problems that trouble the global economy. Its about the world economy, stupid, could be a subtext for this seemingly inward American election.
A US that becomes a major exporter of energy sources, for example, would help reduce dependency on instable areas like West Asia as well help ease the commodity-based inflation that has been the bane of emerging economies like India.