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‘Obama’s message more than courtesy’

india Updated: Jan 27, 2009 01:07 IST
Tushar Srivastava
Tushar Srivastava
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

US President Barack Obama’s Republic Day greeting — that the Indian people “have no better friend than the US” — had a remarkably personal tenor and went beyond mere courtesy, according to foreign policy experts. They said Obama’s message “cleared the air and quashed all speculation” about any pressure on India from the new US administration.

“It goes beyond courtesies extended on national days,” said Naresh Chandra, former cabinet secretary and ambassador to the US. “It’s very special and significant as there is a personal dimension to the message.”

Extending greetings, Obama said, “As the Indian people celebrate Republic Day all across India, they should know that they have no better friend and partner than the people of the United States.”

But Chandra said India should not see underlying motives in the statement. “It’s favourable to India and is very welcome,” he said. “It’s what American people generally feel about India.”

Major general (retired) Ashok K. Mehta said: “People feared that with Obama there would be pressure on India on foreign police issues such as CTBT, Kashmir and outsourcing. He has cleared the air and quashed all speculation of pressure on India. Nobody else would have said this.”

In his message, Obama said: “It is our shared values that form the bedrock of a robust relationship across peoples and governments. Those values and ideals provide the strength that enables us to meet any challenge, particularly from those who use violence to try to undermine our free and open societies.”

Lalit Mansingh, former foreign secretary and India’s ambassador to the US, said it proved Obama meant business. “The strategic partnership will get further strengthened,” said Mansingh. “The US is certainly India’s most important strategic partner. The US is continuing with striking targets in Pakistan. Some people were not expecting this. Obama is carrying on from where Bush left. He has made it clear that if Pakistan is unwilling or unable to cooperate, the US will take unilateral action. He had been critical of Bush’s focus on Iraq instead of Afghanistan-Pakistan and his first step was appointing a special envoy for the two countries.”

Mehta said the pressure was on Pakistan and Afghanistan. “With the US appointing a special envoy for the two countries, there is a clear message that they would like to deal with India quite differently,” he said. “For Indians, president Bush was the best thing. But with this statement, Obama has set the record straight: don’t fear a good friend.”

Wishing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a quick recovery, Obama said, “Together, we celebrate our shared belief in democracy, liberty, pluralism, and religious tolerance. Our nations have built broad and vibrant partnerships in every field of human endeavor. Our rapidly growing and deepening friendship with India offers benefits to all the world’s citizens as our scientists solve environmental challenges together, our doctors discover new medicines, our engineers advance our societies, our entrepreneurs generate prosperity, our educators lay the foundation for our future generations, and our governments work together to advance peace, prosperity, and stability around the globe.”

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