Interview with Chidanand Rajghatta on the US election
Q. Why should Indians be following the US elections?
A. What happens in the US has significance and repercussions for India and indeed the rest of the world in terms of foreign policy, economic policy etc. To begin with the geo-politics, who wins will have a bearing on the war in Iraq. A McCain victory will spell an extended stay in Iraq with its own consequences. An Obama will mean other consequences that may arise from a quick US withdrawal.
Q. What are the issues related to India in the elections?
A. There are not may direct issues. India does not figure in a big way but the fact is the debates about the economy and jobs in the election have a bearing on India. Also, the debates on immigration are relevant to some Indians.
Q. What is the role of Indian Americans in the election?
A. Indian-Americans are more than 2 million now in US. It is not clear how many of them have voting rights and how many are active in the political process. There is a lot of hype and overheated reporting about how important/crucial Indian-Americans are. Most of it is exaggerated but having said that they are gaining in influence because they are the wealthiest and academically most qualified minority.
Q. Who are some of the prominent Indian Americans involved in the campaigns?
A. Couple of them in the Hilary campaign. Her director for public issues is a woman of Indian origin, Neera Tanden. So is her personal assistant Huma Abedin. In the Obama camp, Parag Khanna is one of his advisers on foreign policy. There must be some people in the McCain camp too. I know there was a big Indian-American fund raiser in Arizona for him.
Q. Which candidate is being perceived as pro-India?
A. My sense is all three are broadly seen as favouring India. It is just a matter of nuances and differing emphasis. Hilary has the longest relationship going back to mid 1990s. Her visit to India in 1995 is what set in motion the tectonic changes that followed. Obama, by political temperament, is consonant with what India stands for – liberal and secular outlook. In terms of geo-political powerplay, McCain, whose vision is broadly in tune with Bush’s, would seem pro-India too.
But I’d advice against using pro-India for any of them. All three are pro-America but in some degree their policies will not be detrimental to India. It is also a fact that their India policy will be driven by the resurgence of a billion-strong India on a strong economic growth track and the growing profile and influence of the 2.6 million Indian-Americans here.
A professional journalist for 17 years, Chidu Rajghatta is presently the Foreign Editor and U.S. Correspondent of The Times of India, India’s largest newspaper, and the second largest English Broadsheet Daily in the Free World.
Based in Washington DC, he reports mainly on politics, diplomacy and strategic affairs. He also writes often on the arts and literature, sports and human endeavor, and issues related to science and technology.
Part of class on US presidential candidatesby