HT Image
HT Image

India will be a top priority: Obama

US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says a stronger relationship with India and a close strategic partnership will be a 'top priority' in his presidency.
By Ashok Easwaran | IANS, Chicago
UPDATED ON OCT 23, 2008 12:28 PM IST

A stronger relationship with India and a close strategic partnership will be a "top priority" of a Barack Obama administration, says the Democratic presidential candidate.

"The US should be working with India on a range of critical issues from preventing terrorism to promoting peace and stability in Asia," Senator Obama said in an exclusive interview with IANS, the first with a South Asian journalist after his nomination for the presidency by the Democratic party.

"Joe Biden and I will make building a stronger relationship, including a close strategic partnership, with India a top priority."

On his agenda for working with New Delhi, he said: "I also believe India is a natural strategic partner for America in the 21st century and that the US should be working with India on a range of critical issues from preventing terrorism to promoting peace and stability in Asia."

In the interview, Obama elaborated on a wide range of issues, from comprehensive immigration reforms and making globalisation and trade work for American workers, to seeking the active participation of the Indian American community in the process of change that he has advocated.

He said he would support "comprehensive immigration reform", including the H-1B visa programme "to attract some of the world most talented people to America".

Obama explained that he wanted to end abuses of the H1-B visas that is used by highly qualified specialists to work in US. He added that he would make "immigrant workers less dependent on their employers for their right to stay in the country, and would hold accountable employers who abuse the system and their workers".

The Obama administration, he said, would seek to strengthen ties with the "vibrant" Indian American community and encourage their "active engagement... in making the change we seek".

He asserted the Democratic nomination was running on the manifesto of "inclusiveness, optimism and hope" that will translate into a "progressive presidency".

On the contentious election topics of outsourcing and globalisation, he said: "We know that we cannot and should not put up walls around our economy."

Acknowledging that global competition "is a fact that cannot be reversed", Obama added: "But we must find a way to make globalisation and trade work for American workers."

Obama has deep roots in Chicago, having started his career as a community organiser in the city. From his days as an Illinois senator, he has had strong links with the city's growing Indian American community. He has worked regularly on issues ranging from reforms in immigration and campaign finance, to health care and education, with Illinois' premier Indian political networking group, the Indo-American Democratic Organization.

Excerpts from the interview with IANS:

Immigrants have, over the years, made a critical contribution to the United States. But now the US stands to lose its leadership in the sciences, in part because of restrictive immigration policies. Do you plan to reform immigration laws so that the US is once again a magnet for talent from around the world?

I have played a leading role in crafting comprehensive immigration reform and believe that our broken immigration system can only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a solution that strengthens our security while reaffirming our heritage as a nation of immigrants. I believe we must secure our borders, fix our broken immigration bureaucracy, and require the 12 million undocumented to get on a responsible path to citizenship. They must pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for citizenship. I will also increase the number of people we allow in the country legally to a level that unites families and meets the demand for jobs employers cannot fill.

Many economists have asserted that in an increasingly globalised world, it is counter productive to restrict the flow of capital, labour and increasingly jobs. Do you plan to restrict outsourcing, or would you prefer that American companies respond to this threat by moving up the value chain instead?

Revolutions in communications and technology have sent jobs wherever there's an internet connection, and have forced workers in Chicago and Boston to compete for those jobs with workers in Bangalore and Beijing. We live in a more competitive world, and that is a fact that cannot be reversed. We know that we cannot and should not put up walls around our economy. But we must find a way to make globalisation and trade work for American workers.

The American worker needs to be supported and given the tools needed to compete in the global economy. So I would pursue common-sense measures such as offering tax incentives to companies that create jobs in the United States, undertaking policies, such as supporting growth sectors like renewable energy and building up our infrastructure, that will lead to creation of well-paying jobs, and, most importantly, investing in education and job re-training programmes. The United States has faced fundamental economic challenges before and it has met them by expanding opportunity outward, growing our middle class, and investing in the education and well-being of our workers.

Are you worried about the fragile polity in Pakistan coupled with the looming presence of terror networks? Would you continue to consider Pakistan as a trusted ally?

I want to build a broad-based and lasting relationship with the people of Pakistan - not just temporary alliances with their government. While the US and Pakistan must continue to work together to combat terrorism that has claimed innocent lives in both countries and to destroy the terrorist sanctuaries along the Afghan-Pakistani border, I will make helping Pakistan tackle critical challenges like illiteracy, poverty, and lack of health care a key priority including by increasing aid in these areas. I will stand up for democratic institutions, civil society and judicial independence in Pakistan. I cosponsored legislation with Senator Lugar to triple non-military assistance to Pakistan and sustain it for the next decade.

What are your views on the demand made by several US companies including Microsoft that the US needs to increase the number of work visas (H1B) to protect its technological leadership?

A: I support comprehensive immigration reform that includes improving our visa programmes, including the H-1B programme, to attract some of the world's most talented people to America. I would like to see immigrant workers less dependent on their employers for their right to stay in the country, and would hold accountable employers who abuse the system and their workers.

From an outsider's perspective questions such as whether America is "ready for a black president" sounds almost medieval. Why do you think a democracy which is 232 years old is still grappling with such issues?

Just 50 years ago, nine brave African American schoolchildren sought to realise the promise of Brown v. Board of Education by walking past an angry mob and into the doors of Central High School in Little Rock , Arkansas. The event marked a great moment in America 's long march toward equality and freedom. The federal government put itself firmly on the side of justice and equal opportunity for all. And this was only the beginning. That same month, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was signed into law, and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division was created shortly thereafter. In the years that followed, another Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act were passed. These laws, and the institutional practices they created, helped transform our nation into one that is more just, more equal, and more free.

While we have made significant progress over the last five decades, there is no question that we have more work to do. Joe Biden and I will build upon our nation's commitment to equal justice and opportunity for all. We will restore professionalism to the Civil Rights Division and reinvigorate federal civil rights enforcement and reform our criminal justice system so that it works for all, regardless of race, wealth, or other circumstances. We are running on inclusiveness, optimism and hope, and that will translate into a progressive presidency on issues of diversity and inclusion.

You have voted for the Indo-US nuclear deal. Would you consider India a strategic partner with the United States in its efforts to promote stability in the Asian region?

I am an advocate of strengthening US relations with India, the world's largest democracy and a growing economic power. I voted for the India civilian nuclear cooperation deal in 2006 and have since worked to ensure that the agreement is implemented properly so that Indians benefit from expanded energy sources and that nuclear proliferation concerns are addressed. I also believe that India is a natural strategic partner for America in the 21st century and that the US should be working with India on a range of critical issues from preventing terrorism to promoting peace and stability in Asia. Joe Biden and I will make building a stronger relationship, including a close strategic partnership, with India a top priority.

Indian Americans, like many others, look upon you as an agent of change. What would you like to say to them?

As a community organiser, civil rights lawyer, and elected official, I have spent my career working on issues of importance to Indian Americans. I am proud to have worked side-by-side with Indian Americans on a variety of issues, including immigration, civil rights, foreign policy, and education, and Joe Biden and I look forward to strengthening our relationships with Indian Americans during my administration. We will reach out to encourage the active engagement of the vibrant Indian American community in making the change we seek.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia are seen in a Pobeda plane heading from Berlin to Moscow.(AFP)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia are seen in a Pobeda plane heading from Berlin to Moscow.(AFP)

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny lands in Moscow after plane diverted

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:05 PM IST
Police detained several people at Vnukovo airport and cleared a crowd out of the terminal.
Close
US President-elect Joe Biden at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, US on January 16, 2021.(Reuters Photo )
US President-elect Joe Biden at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, US on January 16, 2021.(Reuters Photo )

Biden will wait for recommendation on sharing secrets with Trump

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:02 PM IST
Sue Gordon, who resigned in 2019, said any former president was a foreign intelligence target but Trump "might be unusually vulnerable to bad actors with ill intent."
Close
A policeman stands guard at the burnt Hindu temple in Karak district, Peshawar. On Dec 31, 2020, Hundreds of Muslims attacked and set fire to the temple. (AFP)
A policeman stands guard at the burnt Hindu temple in Karak district, Peshawar. On Dec 31, 2020, Hundreds of Muslims attacked and set fire to the temple. (AFP)

Hindu community leader demands protection for temple in Pakistan's Havelian

PTI, Islamabad
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:56 PM IST
Hindu community leader Haroon Sarab Dayal said the temple in Havelian city is an old structure and now the land mafia is out to destroy this heritage.
Close
US President-elect Joe Biden at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, US on January 16, 2021.(Reuters Photo )
US President-elect Joe Biden at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, US on January 16, 2021.(Reuters Photo )

In inaugural address, Joe Biden will appeal to national unity

AP, Washington
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:33 PM IST
Providing a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the US illegally will be part of Biden's agenda, according to people briefed on his plans.
Close
Tim Gionet (L) who goes by the name "Baked Alaska" on the internet, talks with White Nationalist leader Richard Spencer.(File Photo / REUTERS)
Tim Gionet (L) who goes by the name "Baked Alaska" on the internet, talks with White Nationalist leader Richard Spencer.(File Photo / REUTERS)

Far-right personality 'Baked Alaska' arrested in Capitol riot probe

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:31 PM IST
FBI Special Agent Nicole Miller said in an affidavit filed in the case that Tim Gionet, aka Baked Alaska, streamed live for about 27 minutes from inside the Capitol.
Close
A coffin, part of a recent discovery from the Saqqara necropolis, is seen south of Cairo, Egypt January 17, 2021.(REUTERS)
A coffin, part of a recent discovery from the Saqqara necropolis, is seen south of Cairo, Egypt January 17, 2021.(REUTERS)

Egypt unveils 3000-year old coffins in latest archaeological discovery

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:18 PM IST
Officials are keen to show off newly discovered artefacts as they try to revive visitor numbers after the tourism industry received a painful blow during the coronavirus pandemic.
Close
Security officials have eyed Sunday as the first major flashpoint, as that is when the anti-government "boogaloo" movement made plans weeks ago to hold rallies in all 50 states. (Representative Image)
Security officials have eyed Sunday as the first major flashpoint, as that is when the anti-government "boogaloo" movement made plans weeks ago to hold rallies in all 50 states. (Representative Image)

Law enforcement officials brace for pro-Trump protests at state capitols

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:09 PM IST
More than a dozen states have activated National Guard troops to help secure their capitol buildings following an FBI warning of armed protests, with right-wing extremists emboldened by the deadly attack on the US Capitol in Washington on January 6.
Close
Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia sit in the plane prior to flight to Moscow in the Airport Berlin Brandenburg in Schoenefeld, Germany.(AP)
Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia sit in the plane prior to flight to Moscow in the Airport Berlin Brandenburg in Schoenefeld, Germany.(AP)

Explained: Why Kremlin critic Navalny faces immediate arrest in Russia?

Written by Kunal Gaurav
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:01 PM IST
Navalny has been jailed several times over various charges, which the Russian leader has denounced as politically motivated.
Close
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte leaves the Parliament building in The Hague, Netherlands.(REUTERS)
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte leaves the Parliament building in The Hague, Netherlands.(REUTERS)

Dutch PM Mark Rutte and his entire cabinet quits over welfare scandal

AP, The Hague
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 09:53 PM IST
  • The Netherlands is the third European country thrown into political uncertainty this week in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Close
A worker holds a vial of the AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine.(Bloomberg File Photo )
A worker holds a vial of the AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine.(Bloomberg File Photo )

Brazil regulator to decide on emergency use of Sinovac, AstraZeneca vaccines

Reuters, Brasilia/sao Paulo
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 09:37 PM IST
Adding to urgency for vaccinations, a second wave of the outbreak in Brazil is snowballing as the country confronts a new, potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus.
Close
The withdrawal comes less than a month before Somalia is set to hold a national election. (Representative Image)(REUTERS)
The withdrawal comes less than a month before Somalia is set to hold a national election. (Representative Image)(REUTERS)

US military says its troop removal from Somalia is complete

PTI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 09:36 PM IST
Some experts have warned that the withdrawal of an estimated 700 US military personnel comes at the worst possible time for Somalia, as the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group improves its bomb-making skills and continues to attack military and civilian targets even in the capital, Mogadishu.
Close
The transport ministry said the ship had 12 crew members, including two Russians and 10 Ukrainians.(Representative Image )
The transport ministry said the ship had 12 crew members, including two Russians and 10 Ukrainians.(Representative Image )

Cargo ship sinks in the Black Sea; 3 dead, 6 rescued

AP, Istanbul
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 09:00 PM IST
Emergency workers saved at least six crew members and reached the bodies of two others,
Close
FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020 file photo, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks as she and President-elect Joe Biden introduce their nominees and appointees to key national security and foreign policy posts at The Queen theater, in Wilmington, Del. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, a history-making event in which the first Black, South Asian and female vice president will take her oath of office from the first Latina justice. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)(AP)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020 file photo, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks as she and President-elect Joe Biden introduce their nominees and appointees to key national security and foreign policy posts at The Queen theater, in Wilmington, Del. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, a history-making event in which the first Black, South Asian and female vice president will take her oath of office from the first Latina justice. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)(AP)

Kamala Harris to resign from Senate seat on Monday ahead of Inauguration Day

ANI, Washington
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 08:19 PM IST
Harris has already started the process by notifying California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Close
A nurse administers the Covid-19 vaccine to a frontline worker after the virtual launch of vaccination drive at a Hospital in Kolkata.(ANI)
A nurse administers the Covid-19 vaccine to a frontline worker after the virtual launch of vaccination drive at a Hospital in Kolkata.(ANI)

Israel Prison Service to start vaccinating inmates, including Palestinian ones

AFP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 08:16 PM IST
The Jewish state faced harsh criticism when Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to get innoculated.
Close
Donald Trump throughout his term faced suspicion of colluding with a foreign government. (AP File Photo )
Donald Trump throughout his term faced suspicion of colluding with a foreign government. (AP File Photo )

Donald Trump pushed the limits of the US legal system: Here’s how it held up

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 08:12 PM IST
Trump and his allies launched an unprecedented legal campaign to try to overturn the 2020 results through dozens of lawsuits.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP