One thing that I admire about American President's is that they know what they want. In the last 10 years or so whenever I have read about an American President visiting China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries, I have always noticed that before the US President leaves the American shores, he would announce that he is going to return with so many jobs.
President Obama is no exception. And within hours of reaching India, he managed to bag 53,000 jobs for America. By the time he flies out of New Delhi on Nov 9, I am sure he would have added another 50,000 or so.
When was the last time you heard the Indian Prime Minister say so. Except for the use of usual cliches like ' it is a goodwill visit' and 'the visit will strengthen the ties,' I don't know what our successive Prime Ministers have achieved all these years from such state visits. Except for a few business deals, I think successive Indian Prime Ministers have actually failed the nation. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is no exception.
Compare this with China. During the term of President Clinton, he made a statement that the US will not trade with China because of its bad human rights record. Within a day or so the big US corporations made life tough for Bill Clinton, but more significant was the courage and political statesmanship shown by the then Chinese President. I remember watching the BBC World TV Beijing correspondent asking the question to the Chinese President. His reply was: "Trading with America, we never trade with America for the last 4000 years. So how does it matter."
The US has never again brought up the human rights issue.
Remember Manmohan Singh's visit to G-20 Summit in Toronto after the Bhopal gas tragedy court verdict. He didn't even have the courage to talk about justice for Bhopal victims when he met President Obama in Toronto. What can you expect from such spineless leadership.
President Obama knows what he wants. He wants India to provide more market access for the American manufacturing and agricultural products. And he wants India to provide jobs in America. He has come to sell American hardware, and with India Inc. in tow, he knows he will get what he wants.
The tragedy is that India does not even know what it needs to get from America. If you have been following the endless debates and discussions on the TV, it is obvious that we are a confused nation. Most of the experts on the show are not talking business, but giving us a feel of how much they know about strategic relations. This is because they are completely cut-off from the realities of the ongoing economic developments that are shaping the upheavals in the global economy.
I was therefore very surprised when I heard a Mumbai student (when interviewed by a TV journalist today) as to what he intends to ask President Obama when he meets the generation next on Sunday morning. He replied that he is going to ask about the unjust TRIPs and TRIMs agreements which are heavily loaded against the developing countries, and which would lead to the rich becoming richer and the poor being driven to the wall.
I bet the correspondent didn't know anything about TRIPs or TRIMs !
No wonder, while the US has come with a laundry list, India has no such shopping list. Except for the controversial issue of outsourcing (which is nothing compared to market access that India should be seeking in the US), there is nothing that seems to be on the radar screen. If you have no shopping list, you have no reason to complain later.
US knows where it has to walk the extra mile for its own strategic business interests. India does not even know how to take advantage of the huge market that it can offer to the American corporations. We are on a position of strength. Even if America has the sophisticated technology (not much of it is actually required in India), it desperately requires customers to buy it. Otherwise it is only a matter of time before the American company pulls down the shutters in the absence of buyers.
Remember George Bush when he came to India in 2006. Media had played up the story of the US willing to allow imports of Indian mangoes. In return, the US had wanted access for selling its Harley-Davidson motorcycles. What is little known is that while India lowered the emission norms to allow the sub-standard motorcycle into India, the US has still not softened the sanitary and phytosanitary standards that blocks the entry of mangoes.
India is a Mango Republic.