Questions that millions of common Indians ask Mr. Obama

November 10, 2010

Press Statement from National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM)

New Delhi, November 8 : ‘Change’ and ‘Hope’ were the two words which marked the election of Barack Obama as the President of United States of America. However, two years down the line, very little seems to have changed for the American citizens back home (as witnessed in the losses faced by Democrats in just concluded elections) and for millions across the world who are victims of the US economic, military and foreign policies.

US President Obama’s on-going maiden India visit, accompanied by around 400 major US industrialists is about creating “50,000 jobs in USA” by writing up several agreements with India. Indian laws and practice permit the Union government to sign treaties and agreements with foreign countries without prior reference to Parliament, as already done with the India-US Nuclear deal and the Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture. Given the strongly pro-US stance of the UPA government, there are good chances that Obama will succeed. The Indian government is under the influence of big Indian industry in its approach and decisions, and this supports US policy of increasing trade and industrial links with India. US industry is sure to profit, giving Mr. Obama a much-needed political boost back home. And so would Indian big industry, giving Dr. Manmohan Singh a domestic boost when the UPA’s flag flies at half-mast following CWG and other embarrassments.

It is in this backdrop that Mr. Obama’s visit to India must be seen more dispassionately and maturely, asking questions as to what his visit would mean for millions of ordinary Indians. It is unfortunate that the mainstream media, which is all too obsessed to portray his visit as the ‘most awaited thing for India’, hoping it will not only ‘strengthen our ties’, but will give a fillip to India’s place in the comity of nations in the 21st century fails to bring forth the deeper and real issues.

His announcements, in front of the US-India Business Council of a 10 billion dollar deal for GE and Boeing fueling the war machine of India and the destructive development might generate 50,000 jobs back home, but what about lakhs of livelihoods lost here in India? It is becoming clear that the ‘People’s President’ has no time for People. Business as usual for Businesses seems to be the prime motive.

If anything, Obama’s visit carries a hidden agenda, to further the profiteering interests of the US Corporations and it is clear that Washington is pushing its ties with New Delhi even narrowly than earlier in various sectors. It is undeniable that the President’s visit is overwhelmingly tilted towards the advantage of the American Corporations and the State.

The asymmetry of USA’s insistence on corporate accountability in the recent Gulf of Mexico oil disaster with Obama’s silence on corporate accountability in the Bhopal gas disaster of 25 years earlier is glaring. This can only be interpreted as successive Indian governments’ agreeing to subordinate the economic interests of the vast majority of India’s millions to the interests of corporate India, and its commitment to neo-liberal economic ideology.

We also feel that India’s increasing affinity with the ‘Global Big Brother’ is a cause of deep concern for all of who prioritize real democracy, equity and lasting peace in our relations with our neighbours. We warn of the need for a mature and realistic approach whether on the ‘war on terror’ globally or insurgency and Maoism internally, which must be guided by a people-centric decision making process in India and not pushed by US.

Today, the US has won over a large pool of ‘faithful’ foot soldiers in India ranging from bureaucrats, infocrats, technocrats to academics, economists, bio-technologists, nuclear scientists, political representatives, professionals, call center employees to even NGO’s and welfare organizations, who reinforce the subjugation, hegemony and greed of global capital, led by the US regime.

While Mr. Obama has called India an ‘indispensable ally’, he should also care to know what the indispensable priorities for the largest democracy in the world are. President Obama has a historic responsibility to undo historical injustices inflicted upon India and other developing nations by the imperialist policies of US and Corporations, and we call upon him to address these wrongs and inequities, while marking a pro-people shift in contemporary policies. For instance, at a time when the US itself is de-commissioning large dams and not pursuing nuclear projects domestically, should it not stop funding and supporting huge hydro-electric projects in India and elsewhere through various IFIs and other Corporations and respect the global opposition to nuclear energy.

President Obama has a mandate to change things, at least begin the process and if he wants to disprove the strengthening allegation that he is the soft face of the US corporate culture, this is the time. Otherwise, he will have to pay heavily for the ill-implications of letting corporations run loose, trampling people’s rights and interests. In sum, President Obama’s India visit is unlikely to enhance peace, justice and democracy within India, regionally or worldwide.

Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, Maj Gen (Retd) Sudhir Vombatkere, Roma, Gabriele Dietrich, Dayamani Barla, Sister Celia, Anand Mazgaonkar, Bhupendra Singh Rawat, Rajendra Ravi, and Madhuresh Kumar
(for National Conveners Team)