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Obama supports strategic ties with India, not outsourcing

US President-elect Barack Obama is a solid supporter of the growing Indo-US strategic partnership and backs the landmark bilateral nuclear deal, but has strong views about outsourcing of US jobs overseas.

world Updated: Nov 05, 2008 19:39 IST

US President-elect Barack Obama is a solid supporter of the growing Indo-US strategic partnership and backs the landmark bilateral nuclear deal, but has strong views about outsourcing of US jobs overseas, a cause of concern for Indian businesses.

The 47-year-old, elected as the first black President of the US, is said to have a close affinity with things Indian. He carries a miniature figure of Lord Hanuman for luck and had a picture of Mahatma Gandhi placed in his Senate office.

In a message of India's 62nd Independence Day, Obama had said Gandhi's active role in India's independence movement has "inspired generations of young people around the world to pursue freedom in their own countries."

"As freedom faces challenges in many parts of the world, his (Gandhi's) example is even more relevant. This enduring legacy is one of the great gifts of India's revolution," Obama had said.

He felt that it was "only natural" that the world's oldest and largest constitutional democracies should enjoy "strong relations". America and India share many common goals and interests and the US is New Delhi's largest trading and investment partner, Obama had noted.

"With India, America has one of its most important relationships in an uncertain world...Both countries, India and America, are working to protect their people and values of 21st century threats while at the same time respecting the rule of law and cultural pluralism," the African-American leader said.

Obama initially had reservations about the Indo-US nuclear deal and had even introduced a 'killer amendment' when the deal was first debated in the Foreign Relations Committee, but later backed it strongly both in the floor of Senate and outside.

Obama told an Indian magazine before the Manmohan Singh government's July 22 trust vote that the nuclear agreement effectively balances a range of issues -- from America's strategic ties with India to its non-proliferation concerns to India's energy needs.

The Democrat has also ruled out the possibility of renegotiation of the deal if he came to power.

However, one factor that is creating unease among Indians is Obama's strong anti-outsourcing stance, which came to fore repeatedly during the campaign trail.

"....Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America," he has said.

This was one of the key issues on which the Indian- American supporters of his rival John McCain were focussing on to argue that an Obama presidency will be a bad news for India's growing BPO sector.

However, some experts have noted that protectionist measures will be difficult to implement in a globalised world and felt that the fears were overblown.

Obama's recent remarks that the US should try to help resolve the Kashmir problem so that Pakistan can focus on hunting down militants on its restive north-west border have also been seen in some quarters as suggesting outside interference in the issue.

Still, Indian-Americans have overwhelmingly backed Obama amid hopes that his election will open the doors for others in the migrant communities to strive and succeed like him.

"A large number of the Indian-American community especially the second generation have enthusiastically supported Senator Barack Obama and embraced his message of change," Sanjay Puri, the Chairman of the United States India Political Action Committee, said.

"For many Indian-Americans, Obama was on all counts, a transformational candidate who was able to go beyond race," he said.

Ashok Mago, the Chair of the Dallas-based USINDIA Forum, voiced hope that under an Obama administration, "relations between USA and India should continue to strengthen because these are based on mutual values and interests."

Chairman of the American Indians for Democrats Sant Singh Chatwal, a major fund-raiser for the party, said Obama along with Vice President Joseph Biden would follow a pragmatic foreign policy as they understand the reality of the global situation.

Obama, all through his campaign, took care to reach out to the Indian-American community, sending wishes to them on Diwali, independence day and on tercentenary celebrations of consecration of Guru Granth Sahib.

"Indian-Americans have been strong contributors to the local communities they have settled in and around the country," Obama had said in August.

"Indian-Americans balance love of the homeland with a strong commitment to America, and their knowledge, skills, values and entrepreneurial spirit have immeasurably benefited both countries. These efforts have played a significant role in creating a blueprint for bilateral relations that bring our nations closer," he had said.

First Published: Nov 05, 2008 19:37 IST