The flying Sikh and the peacenik


AFP OUT) United States President Barack Obama meets Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India at last week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC.
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M K Bhadrakumar

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Senior Indian officials in their private briefing insist there was “almost a Zen-like spiritual quality” to the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United States President Barack Obama in Washington last Sunday. However, the question being posed by the Indian strategic community is still: “Does Obama care about India?”

At the bottom of such poignantly contrasting characterizations of statecraft lie two factors. First, the residual feudal mindset of the Indian invariably attributes what are in reality flaws in policies to personal vagaries in the thinking of the leader. It’s not so simple. Statecraft is a complex crucible where the witches brew is a broth of many strange ingredients that might or might not include “a pilot’s thumb, Wreck’d as homeward he did come”, as the first witch in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth claimed.

Second, generally speaking, India faces an existential dilemma insofar as it is never quite willing to admit it is solely responsible for giving its own life meaning and living that life passionately and sincerely. It fails to account for its “leap of faith”, a phrase commonly attributed to the 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard – believing in or accepting something intangible or unprovable without empirical evidence.

Sunday’s meeting between the “flying Sikh and the peacenik” – to borrow the words of an Indian editor – was keenly awaited. There is a lot of angst in Delhi about the orientations of the Obama administration’s South Asia policies. Somehow the fizz has gone out of the US-India relationship. This was most conspicuous from the fact that the two sides almost underplayed the Manmohan-Obama meet. The usual hype was lacking in the White House press statement. (more…)