Obama means continuity, firmer ties with India

Semi Column

New Delhi may not have had any particular favourite in the lead-up to the US elections, but a second term for President Barack Obama was perhaps the preferred outcome, largely because it will retain the stability quotient in the Indo-US relationship at a time when it is most needed. The downside, of course, is Obama's inclination to be protectionist on the economic front.

The nature of Obama's victory, decisive as it is along with the popular vote and control over the Senate, will reflect stability in Washington. And a stable US will be more predictable and credible. Bilaterally, the most important takeaway is there will be no need to revisit and re-educate Washington on the whole Pakistan equation. India had to do that with Obama, but by now, he has experienced the realities of cross-border terror havens, an argument that was decisively nailed in the pre-dawn raid at Abottabad. India and the US can now just carry on with their ongoing conversation on Pakistan/terror/security without a pause.

The other key positive is that the 'pivot to Asia' strategy continues and in all likelihood its biggest supporter, Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, will also stay. In the eyes of the US, India is a vital partner to take this policy forward and so the effort to achieve strategic convergence on managing the powerscape in the Asia-Pacific and East Asia will gather pace in the context of China's growing assertiveness.

Still, the chances of the two sides coming up with a game-changing, big idea on the bilateral front is remote. With the political climate in India also not favourable for any such move, both sides will likely spend their time trying to implement all that they have already agreed upon. This, in a way, may do good to the health of the overall relationship.

... contd.

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