Who’s Better for India: Obama or McCain?

In an editorial, the Times of India argues that an Obama administration would be more beneficial for India than a McCain one. This is a commonly held view – but also a wrong one.

The author, Swagato Ganguly, provides one major argument in support of his assertion: that McCain, whose hero is Ronald Reagan, would offer a dangerous continuation of Bush’s neoconservatism. In this view, “an Obama administration would be preferable to the heavy-breathing belligerence of a John McCain.”

Yet, this argument is flawed. First, it equates McCain’s policies to Bush’s. Yet, while Bush’s first term did project neoconservative thought into American foreign policy, in recent years his actions have been tempered by the limits of unilateral action. Today, almost every major international initiative – on North Korea, Iran, or the Middle East – involves other countries.

Second, McCain might hold Reagan in high regard but Reagan was a realist, not a neocon. It is unclear if McCain is either, as he is being courted by both the liberal and conservative movements of the Republican party. But, if anything, the return of realism to international politics would be a welcome change, adding a level of predictability that has been missing for the last several years.

The biggest mistake of the article, however, is to equate the interests of the world with those of India. Yes, an administration more committed to multilateralism might be better for the world order – but not for an India that explicitly seeks to change that world order.

Yes, McCain might be more inclined to attack Iran. By the same measure, he would also be more inclined to pressure Pakistan to act on terror by providing a stick as well as a carrot. On the economy, Republican presidents have historically been far more supportive of higher work permit quotas for Indian workers, and push more for free trade.

McCain’s preference for unilateralism would also work in India’s favor. Regardless of whether one is in favor of the Indo-US nuclear deal, one must admit that Obama would never change global rules as Bush did for theĀ Indo-US nuclear deal. And while the League of Democracies proposed by McCain might bypass the UN to validate military action, it would certainly place India at the head table – something India cannot hope for at the UN Security Council.

History shows that Republican presidents have been more beneficial for India. Jimmy Carter vehemently opposses the Indo-US nuclear deal and wants to treat India and Pakistan equally; Bill Clinton applied sanctions to India in 1998. Kissinger, in contrast, might have called Indira Gandhi a “bitch,” but he was also a pragmatist and has supported India’s rise, saying as early as 1998 that “major sanctions are probably a mistake.”

Editorials are, of course, meant to express opinions. But it is disappointing that the Times of India carries opinions so biased as to have no link to objectivity. A preference for Obama is based on a worldview of a multilateral world in which several equal powers work cooperatively. Yet, that is not the reality yet. Till that happens, India will benefit more from a relationship with the US “dehyphenated” from Pakistan, predictability in the world order, the ability to create new rules, and a US administration committed to economic liberalism. Contrary to Swagato’s opinion, Obama is unlikely to offer any of this.

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    7 thoughts on “Who’s Better for India: Obama or McCain?”

    1. Republicans have helped military dictatorships in Pakistan, created Taliban and replaced the democratic government of Iran with a despotic shah – instigating the Islamic revolution, then created Saddam. Therefore, as far as our international trade with Iran and military spending on Pakistan’s terror goes democrats are much better. It is true that republicans have encouraged outsourcing by providing tax cuts to firms practicing the same but even without these cuts, because skilled labor in India and phillipines is 4 times cheaper than the US, outsourcing will not be rolled back. Obama will be vastly more sympathetic to Indian and other Asian migrants in high professions because he is committed to fairness and to principles of racial diversity.

    2. Thanks Ehud, you’re totally right. However, I think the belief that Obama will be any more “just” is also misplaced. If anything, Obama’s recent statements suggest he shifts his opinions to match his audience. And lets not forget that Clinton bombed Serbia. Yes, McCain is more likely to be belligerent, but in balance I think that risk is more acceptable (for India) than that Obama will play domestic politics on an international stage.

    3. This is an interesting discussion. Yes, McCain is belligerent but more sympathetic to outsourcing – I doubt if republicans would like to increase work quotas with so many unemployed white coders. However, one should also keep in mind that he has expressed candid ignorance about the economy and mechanically reiterates his desire to “create jaabs” out of thin air for the American people. And if war is a priority, he might wring the throats of the unemployed, debt strapped American consumers who may decide to forgo needless calls to India. If there is no US consumer, there is no, absolutely no outsourcing. It almost seems to not have already happened. Let’s thank the current overdose of republican leadership for not completely destroying the American economy by adding only another 500 billion dollars.

    4. I am a US citizen. While I do not know the intricacies of Indian politics and business, this writer’s assumptions about what John McCain would do and what the US economy from here on will be are based on inadequate and outdated understanding. With the financial crisis and jobs flying out of the US, as well as its military might declining, all equations will change in the future.

      I think it is futile for anyone to predict how the US policies will be or affect any one particular country – its too simplistic and naive. If either of these men is really smart, they will do first and foremost what is good for the american people.

      Nothing the Republicans have done or Democrats have done has ever been completely good for the US or the world. We are forgetting that when push comes to shove, politics trumps well-being.

      you are also assuming that the US economy will drive the world. we have seen the consequences of that. I think the really smart economies are going to start moving away from their dependence on the US as a market for its products and jobs for its people. The sooner the world realizes the the US will eventually cease to be a superpower, the sooner they will come up with new solutions independent of the US market and politics. The money and power the US has may be a matter of the past, and those who cannot recognize it will not be able to react well to any new challenges thrown our way as Wall Street so brazenly and shamelessly did this year.

    5. greg Narain makes a good point. No jobs for Americans, no tax money to the govt., no market for goods, and no money for war, diplomacy, or aid. US companies can only make a profit upto a certain point with outsourced jobs, and only in certain sectors of the economy. If the other sectors collapse, it will only be a matter of time before the thriving industries based on outsourcing dry up too. And if outsourcing becomes a glaring problem to an extent that Americans become antagonistic, politicians and businessmen will be in hot water.

      Mr. McCain is one of the most inarticulate people i have seen in the Republican party – which has btw, many very intelligent, knowledgeable members with great expertise. If he becomes President, we will have a tedious and suspensful four years of policy and action.

      But even though Mr.Obama may have well-planned and articulated policies, domestic and foreign events, and political powermongering among US politicians may well disable him in terms of putting things in action.

    6. The world may be wiser to understand that after the events of the past 8 years in the US economy, politics, foreign policies, and its dwindling job market, all bets are off, and any assumptions or calculations Americans and the world had about these things will no longer apply.

      I cannot imagine a better time or reason to rearrange our attitudes, priorities and position ourselves for benefits that come from a new era.

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