Indians in general showed unqualified enthusiasm over Barack Hussein Obama’s victory, but the country’s political class and ruling establishment were more guarded in their analyses.
Representatives of the Muslim community — 13 per cent of the population — consider Obama “less biased” towards them, compared to George W Bush. Obama’s Muslim inheritance is a bonding agent. But they are more hopeful because of his stated policies on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Largely supporters of the ruling alliance, many have been uncomfortable with President Bush’s rhetoric on the ‘war on terror’. “The popular Muslim perception in India is that Obama will be more pragmatic in his policies regarding the Muslim world. For Muslims, this is a welcome change,” said Sheikh Manzoor, Urdu author and journalist. “Muslims hated Bush more than his country. Therefore, Obama brings hope,” said Anees Jamie, commentator on Islamic issues.
The public approval of Obama may help the Indian government and the ruling Congress party. “His activism on Kashmir, possible insistence on Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and The Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, China policy and views on outsourcing may become inconvenient,” a senior Congress leader pointed out. However, Obama’s public posturing has been less confrontationist than Bush. “For instance, Bush’s policy on Iran had put us in a difficult situation,” another Congress leader said.
Congress insiders pointed out its reservations but said the relationship has gained a momentum independent of regime changes in either country. “Still we will have to wait and watch, what his policies are, particularly on China,” a leader said.
Rajya Sabha MP and leader of Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, Mahmood Madni said Muslims expect Obama to be less biased but his ultimate appraisal lay in his will to change current policies.
CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat summed up the mood when asked if anxiety on the pro-US foreign policy would ebb: “It’s too early. We don’t want to comment on whether he brings such a hope just yet.