Obama’s India Cavalcade: What’s Cooking?

Last time US President Obama came to India amid much fanfare, the scene was more than electric. Multi-location visits, meetings with Indian and US diplomats, assurances and promises followed the typical visit by American President. But that was circa 2010 when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister of India and UPA regime was marred with scams and scandals. And, most importantly, American economy was close to being in shambles.

Four years later, India fared very well in general elections that ensued last year and a change of leadership happened. The world, including America, watched with much awe the process that proved the mettle of a tea-seller-turned-CM turn into Prime Minister of the world’s biggest democracy. In more ways than one, Modi and Obama share some similarities. Both leaders caught the world’s attention when they got into the election rung in their respective countries, and both had high hopes pinned on them. While Modi’s honeymoon period still continues while he has stepped foot into the office few months ago, Obama has a short stint before his tenure in the White House comes to an end.

This time around when Obama comes to India, with the quintessential visit to the epitome of love -- Taj Mahal on his itinerary that was missing last time, the tension seems to have shifted places. Last time, Obama sought to put trade ties with India before politics. This time around, the order may be reversed to some extent, given the President’s considerably lowered charisma and tenure in his office.

How is India preparing for the visit of American President though? The much applauded visit is less than a week away. The masterstroke that Modi used in inviting American President to India on the day when the country celebrates its military prowess, and also commemorating the day when it turned a republic is something worth lauding. But, what goes beyond that?

Firstly, Delhi is expected to turn into a literal high security war zone with American President coming into the country when a right wing party is in power. In the recent times, cross-border terrorism has been lying low in a manner that can be somewhat compared to the lull before the storm.

It is also noteworthy to mention that last time around, American government spent nearly Rs 900 crore or $ 200 mn over their President’s visit. This time around, the expenses are anticipated to be even higher and Indian government will also put high level of security arrangements in place before Obamas leave the country.

America has already sounded a warning bell to Pakistan, in somewhat a quirky development. The supposed world-leader America has minced no words when it instructed Pakistan that no untoward incidents (read terrorist attacks) should happen in India during the President’s visit. In simpler words, America has told Pakistan agencies that any untoward incidents that can be dubbed as terrorism will be traced back to Pak soil and will have serious implications.

So, the Indians ask, will it be okay for Pak to strike India before or after the President’s visit? Why can’t America be candid about this involvement of Pakistan which has been fuelling cross-border terrorism with its neighbours and is a potential war house for all other countries too?

Meetings have been taking place between top brass in police department over Obama’s visit. Hotels have been cordoned off, criers have been banished till the President leaves the country, and all along the route he would be travelling to Agra for a visit to the Love Tomb.

But, get this right. The Lutyen’s Delhi will have CCTV cameras fitted at every vantage point. Make it about 1,500 cameras according to the official data. SC has scoffed at it and has instructed the government to leave the cameras untouched after the visit is over, so that Indian citizens can have a chance with safety and security that is otherwise close to a fantasy.

Along the borders, vigilance and security has been upped just so that enemy doesn’t break into the territory when India is busy celebrating its military power. The politicians in Obama and Modi will surely vie to make sure both justify the visit. It is the Chinese who will respond differently. Let’s hope it isn’t a bad gesture.

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